He did not fly the twin-engine P-38 Lightning fighter from his flying days during the Second World War, but Francis Royal was fortunate enough to see the actual plane he piloted in combat over Papua New Guinea one month before he died.
In October, the 101-year-old viewed the P-38, restored by Westpac Restoration, when he visited the Colorado Springs-based National Museum of World War II Aviation. He viewed it not only on the ground but also in the air from a small Cessna.
“They wouldn’t let me fly it for some reason,” he joked after the flight. He watched the plane restored every step of the way since he visited Westpac on a regular basis.
After the flight, he disclosed that the trip was his last since he was coming to the end of his life and would soon be cared for in a Hospice.
His family said he seemed to keep his strength up so he could see the Lightning return to pristine condition, Mail Online reported.
“He’s back trading stories with all his old pilot friends and talking about past times,” his son Randy said.
Royal stayed with the military for 30 years, retiring with his wife, Noreen, in Colorado Springs. She passed away before him. Together, they raised five children.