PHIL Etheridge travelled from Canada to Durham Tees Valley Airport with a very special mission in mind.
His father, Norman, was the project leader in the decades-long restoration of the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster and his wife, Mary, did all she could to support the quest to bring the plane back to life.
Mary passed away in March and the Etheridge family knew there could be no more fitting place for her ashes to be spread than at the spiritual home of the Mynarski Lancaster; the former RCAF base at Middleton St George that Andrew Mynarski flew from, now the airport.
Mr Etheridge scattered his mother’s ashes close to the memorial statue of Andrew Mynarski during a moving service which played homage to those who lost their lives flying with Bomber Command.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Etheridge said: “It has been one of those life-changing experiences, being here and seeing what Middleton St George and Mynarski and the aeroplane mean to everybody here, it really put it all into perspective.
“I was a little bit worried that doing the scattering was maybe going to hijack the day a little bit, but I have had everybody telling me that because of my dad’s and my mum’s involvement and commitment to the Lancaster, it is right that it happened here.”
Initially none of the Etheridge family were going to be able to travel to England during the Lancaster’s historic visit, but at the eleventh hour Mr Etheridge was granted time off work and he has been updating his father daily on the impact the Lancaster has made wherever it visits.
He said: “The day that the aeroplane flew for the first time (in Canada) they expected 2,000 people to come.
“They ended up closing roads at the airport and I needed a police escort to get back in because 20,000 people came.”
Mr Etheridge, an aircraft mechanic, also volunteers at the home of the Mynarski Lancaster, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.
The plane, one of only two airworthy Lancasters in the world, was named in honour of Mr Mynarski who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his heroic attempt to save a comrade after their plane was shot down.