Searching through the archives recently I spotted this story which made me chuckle.
In 1975 a Japanese pilot who was flying from Oxford to Northampton somehow got lost and followed the River Severn thinking it was the River Thames.
After a while he realised something was wrong landed in a field to ask a farmer for directions.
Here’s how it was reported in the Birmingham Daily Post
Japanese pilot lands in field to ask way
A ploughed field near the village of Yockleton, Shrewsbury, became a temporary international airport when a Japanese pilot lost his way. He climbed from the cockpit of the light aircraft and asked a resident, who had gone to investigate, the way to Northampton.
Mr. Dylan Thomas, an engineer, of Brookside, Yockteton, said:
“The pilot ran across, asked where he was and how far it was to Northampton. I told him he was way off course and showed him a map. “He said he had set out to fly from Oxford to Northampton, but got lost and started to follow the River Severn, thinking it was the Thames.”
A farmer, Mr. Tudor Bebb. of Polemere. Yockleton, turned out in his Land- Rover to tow the aircraft out of the mud to a less sticky area and the aircraft took off at the third attempt.
Mr. Thomas said: “He was obviously a skilled flyer to land and take off in those conditions, but with navigation like that. I’m curious to know where he finally ended up.”
A navigation officer at RAF Shawbury, near Shrewsbury, said: “It is not uncommon for a private pilot to get lost. This plane was obviously not equipped with radio, and the pilot was not familiar with the countryside. “It couldn’t happen to a service pilot, of course.”
Birmingham Daily Post – Tuesday 04 February 1975
But one reader saw the story and wrote in to defend the honour of civilian pilots in response to comments from the RAF officer.
Let us be fair, perhaps he could not understand, or even see, the very small name boards British Rail now uses at its stations! But seriously, I think it rather unkind to suggest that to become lost is a common incident among private flyers.
As to service pilots becoming lost, I would certainly hope not with the expensive and comprehensive radio aids at their disposal.
Fair’s fair and I think our navigation officer must have had his tongue slightly in his cheek.
D.G BARTON Worcester
Birmingham Daily Post – Monday 10 February 1975
I have absolutely no idea if the pilot ever found his way to Northampton, or ever made it back to Japan – but hopefully wherever he ended up I hope he made it there safely.