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He’s almost 89 and piloting a jet has always topped his bucket list. Dream realized

Frank Best’s lifelong dream has been to fly a jet. It’s been at the top of his bucket list for years. 

Just days before he turns 89, the Barrie Ont., man’s dream came true as he co-piloted a Jet Provost T4 trainer from Tillsonburg Regional Airport near London, Ont., on Tuesday.

“I’ve had an urge to fly all my life. I have a private pilot’s licence, but nothing that qualifies me to fly a jet. But my family gave me this for my birthday, Father’s Day, Christmas, whatever celebration you could think of,” Best told CBC News before taking off. 

The experience was arranged by Best’s retirement home, Amica Little Lake in Barrie, for his July 31 birthday. 

But the journey didn’t come without hiccups.

Mechanical issues with the plane almost cancelled the excursion, and although he waited for several hours and almost lost hope, Best was determined to make it happen. 

I can best sum it up as just the fulfilment of a dream and I hope to walk away saying ‘I’ve done it.– Frank Best, 88

“The day, although long, if you asked my dad, was so very much worth it, a highlight in his life and a dream come true,” said his daughter, Carolyn Best. “He had an awesome flight — was able to do a flyby and tip the wing to us.”

Best’s wife, his two daughters and grandchildren were also there to cheer him on as he soared over 3,000 metres into the air. The rest of his family tuned in from Calgary through FaceTime. 

Frank Best's wife Patricia Devlin-Best, his daughters Carolyn and Susan, and his three grandchildren came out to cheer him on.
Frank Best’s wife, Patricia Devlin-Best, his daughters Carolyn and Susan, and his three grandchildren came to the Tillsonburg airport to cheer him on as he flew the jet trainer. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

For Carolyn and Susan, watching their dad fly was a full-circle moment as they recalled childhood memories of him getting his private pilot’s licence and taking them on flights. 

“I grew up flying with him. He started off on gliders planes to going up with no engine, so this is really cool,” said Carolyn.

“He’s taken us at various times when we were kids to see the snowbirds fly and things like that, so he just loves everything about this, and it’s just exciting,” added Susan.

A little help from his co-pilot

Best wasn’t allowed to take off or land on his own, but with the help of a certified pilot sitting next to him, he took the jet into the air for the hour-long ride. 

Frank Best got to fulfil his lifelong dream of flying a Jet Provost T4 Trainer from Tillsonburg Regional Airport in southwestern Ontario.
Best is shown along with his co-pilot to his left in the jet trainer, as an airport staff member stands on the wing. (Submitted by Carolyn Best )

Best’s interest in aviation goes back to childhood, when he was growing up near Shelbourne, Ont., and he’d see Harvard aircrafts fly over on training missions. 

“When I was six or seven years old and those Harvard flights would come out, I had a little cardboard box that I would jump into, and that was my airplane,” he said.

“A barnstormer came to the Shelbourne fair one year and I pestered my dad to let me go on a flight with him, and it was really great.”

‘I’ve done it’

Although Best doesn’t describe himself as a thrill seeker, he wants to challenge an old saying: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” Best said he looks forward to being an old and bold pilot.

Before he took to the air Tuesday, he noted, while tearing up: “I can best sum it up as just the fulfilment of a dream. It’s something that I’ve felt for a very long time and I hope to walk away saying, ‘I’ve done it.'”

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