Leighton Buzzard's Fly a Flight celebrates its Happy Return and receives visit from EastEnders star Danny Dyer
'We get a lot of folk that have a big passion for the Spitfire'
A Leighton Buzzard simulator business is celebrating its 'Happy Return' from the pandemic, and was chuffed to receive a special visit from a BBC celebrity.
Fly a Flight, which offers experiences in a Boeing 737, Spitfire or Messerschmitt, played host to EastEnders' Danny Dyer, when he and his father took to the virtual skies on May 14.
After the star visit, business owner Mark Lowen is hoping that more people will say 'Tally Ho!' and book an adventure now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased.
Remembering the actor's visit, Mark told the LBO: "I thought, he looks just like Danny Dyer. Then I thought, he sounds like Danny Dyer, too. Then I twigged, and looked at the surname on his dad's booking.
"It was father and son, having some father and son time.
"I thought, poor bloke - he probably can't go anywhere without been swarmed by people. We didn't ask for pictures, we just let them enjoy their day together."
Mark himself trained as a pilot, but unfortunately his commercial career was cut short due to a "slight heart issue" that caused him to lose his medical for a few years.
However, many tests later, and the problem was found to be caffeine.
"I did finally get back into flying once I had the all clear for my medical," said Mark.
The entrepreneur first ran the Fly a Flight business from his garage in Danes Way, where customers could come and visit the Boeing 737 simulator, which was specially built.
He then acquired the Spitfire and Messerschmitt simulators, and has been based at Leighton Buzzard Garden Centre for three-and-a-half years.
Mark said: "We get a lot of folk that have a big passion for the Spitfire, while others come along and want to shoot at each other, or appreciate how difficult it was to engage in combat.
"The oldest person we've had is 96!
"Previously, we were also visited by two Spitfire pilots, a Lancaster pilot, and a Messerschmitt pilot."
Indeed, customers have come from across the globe to visit Fly a Flight, with previous guests hailing from countries including Norway, Australia and New York.
They have also been visited by the great-grandson of German aircraft designer and manufacturer, Willy Messerschmitt.
Recalling a favourite memory with their World War Two guests, Mark added: "One of the pilots hadn't flown for 60 years. He took off, did a victory roll, and said: 'It's just like riding a bike!'"
Fly a Flight was able to reopen on April 12 and Mark would like to say a huge thank you to his customers for all their support.
The business had to close during all three lockdowns, but did manage to trade for four or five months last summer.
Mark added: "With the first lockdown, we had to cancel so many bookings - about 700 we had to postpone.
"Three people wanted refunds but everyone else was so understanding and waited until they could have new bookings.
"Now we're going through the steps coming out of lockdown, and every time we get to the next step the phone rings more and more."
The World War Two pilots visited as part of a special open day, and when the world returns to normal, Mark would love to host a similar event at Fly a Flight.
To find out more or book an adventure, visit: https://flyaflightsimulatorexperience.com/prices> Why not get involved in the Leighton Buzzard Observer’s Happy Returns feature? We’d be delighted to hear details of how businesses and the community are emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic.
It might be news of a business relaunching, your youth sports team resuming its matches, how your school is coping with the ongoing challenges, how your club or society is ditching Zoom and is looking to meet face-to-face again, a family reunion or celebration which can finally go ahead, or the many other examples of events and activities we all took for granted slowly returning.
This is a great chance to tell your story over the coming weeks and months ahead. Submit 100-300 words to this newspaper on how the pandemic has had an impact, how you’ve kept going and most importantly news of your ‘Happy Return’ when it’s deemed safe. We’d also love to receive photos of those joyful reunions/reopenings. Please send all details to [email protected]