David Jason takes to the skies for Britain

Tuesday:Flying for Britain with David Jason; (ITV, 8pm)
David Jason with a Lancaster from the
RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight heritage collection held at RAF ConingsbyDavid Jason with a Lancaster from the
RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight heritage collection held at RAF Coningsby
David Jason with a Lancaster from the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight heritage collection held at RAF Coningsby

It seemed like just another mid-July day in Lincolnshire. Okay, Coronavirus made it a summer like no other, but suddenly RAF Coningsby was transformed into something rather special as a film crew and one of the most famous men in the UK arrived.

Local Only Fools and Horses fans were thrilled when David Jason turned up and spent the day at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitor Centre.

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Now there’s a chance to see what all the well deserved fuss was about. This one-off documentary follows David and the RAF team who fly and maintain the historic aircraft that make up the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

David was just a few months old when that Second World War campaign saw British fighters attempt to keep the country safe against attacks from German pilots.

If you’ve read his autobiography My Life, you’ll know how skilled he is at grabbing the reader’s attention from the off.

“Which near-death experience shall I begin with? The one involving the 30-foot drop at Ronnie Barker’s house?” he remarked, which is certainly an impressive way of hooking the reader.

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And the opening chapter of his tome Only Fools and Stories, about his trip to Afghanistan in a Hercules transporter, is so compelling, you’d think it had been penned by Lee Child or Stephen King. Like Flying for Britain, that was also as part of a job for ITV. David had been asked to present a Pride of Britain award in 2010, and jumped at the chance, before realising how complex the job would be. Nothing quite so extreme here, though it’s clear the acclaimed thespian is in his element.

David, a qualified helicopter pilot and aircraft enthusiast who has previously flown Spitfires, sees the pilots honing their formation-flying skills and rehearsing for public displays. There’s also behind-the-scenes footage in hangars and workshops where these irreplaceable historic machines are fastidiously maintained.

The London-born star takes to the skies and flies alongside veteran Battle of Britain Hurricane and Spitfire fighters, learning more about the history of these incredible aircraft and the brave crew who flew them. David also gets to know some of today’s best pilots – and meets the team of engineers at RAF Coningsby who keep the aircraft in the Memorial Flight in perfect working order.

Because Britain went into lockdown as the programme started filming, David speaks to the volunteers from the Memorial Flight, many of who have other jobs in the Royal Air Force, about how they plan to salvage their previously packed display schedule.

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David’s skill as an actor, writer, director and storyteller is what’s made him one of the most beloved celebrities. It’s doubtful the Jack of all trades would be willing to jet off to Afghanistan to present an award these days, but like those souls who risked their lives in the aerial conflict which decided Blighty’s fate, he’s still the pride of Britain.

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