Ian Simpson was near the Royal Air Force base in eastern England, where he was taking photographs of fighter aircraft, when he noticed sparks flying from the back of a plane.
He and some aviation enthusiasts listened to flight control traffic and realized that the pilot didn’t seem to notice the engine issue. Simpson called RAF Lakenheath’s phone number and convinced a switchboard operator to patch him through to flight operations at the base.
"I said, ‘Look, something is wrong with the plane, definitely. We’ve got lots of photographs of sparks coming out the back,'" Simpson, 56, told the Associated Press.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Grant Thompson, who was flying an F-15E Strike Eagle, was able to return back to base safely once he was notified of the issue.
“For most of us here, this was a very rare occurrence that we have not personally witnessed,” the air base said in a statement. “It’s wonderful to know that the Liberty Wing has such a great partnership with the local community — and the courage that Ian displayed was next to none.”
“Maj. Thompson was unaware of the malfunction to his aircraft, and because of the quick actions of Mr. Simpson, he was alerted by RAFL personnel and returned back to base safely without further incident,” according to an RAF Lakenheath statement.
Thompson, upon meeting Simpson, ripped off the flight patch from his shoulder and handed it to the man whose quick thinking might have saved his life.
“For me, the most humbling thing has been the families of servicemen who thanked me for doing what I did,” Simpson said. “I wasn’t expecting to get so much thanks."
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Original Author: Mike Brest