LOCAL aviation historian was given the honour of taking part in a flight over the Channel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

Paul Beaver, who lives just outside of Salisbury, was invited to take part in the special event which was organised by Dax Over Normandy.

But, he admits he nearly did not make it over to Normandy after the Dakota he was due to fly in suffered an engine failure. Instead he was able to get a place on an DC-3 Dakota.

Paul says the "rollercoaster day" started with helicopter flight up to Duxford.

He said: "We managed to get into Goodwood on time only to find that the Dakota, which I was hoping to travel to Normandy had had an engine failure and so had been taken off the line. Then there was a bit of a scrabble to find which aircraft needed another crew member. I managed to get onboard an American aircraft, originally built for pan-American, which needed a navigator and a linguist so that worked out well.

"Then it was the most fantastic hour and 50 minutes of flying from Duxford to Colchester to Southend to Maidstone. Over Beachy Head there were thousands of people watching across the Channel in formation with 20 other Dakotas with Mustangs flying around and Spitfires.

"It was just amazing. The closest you could get to what it was like on the 5th and 6th of June with the aerial armada."

He says there were quite a few interesting people on his aircraft including the last surviving American Pathfinder pilot.

Paul added: "We crossed the coast of France and the jumping aircraft peeled off with people jumping out including veterans all desperate to land in the same field they landed in 75 years earlier."

The planes landed in Caen and Paul added: "I found the French were so welcoming. It was a brilliant end with a glass of local beer to the most amazing rollercoaster of a day - almost didn't make it and then made it.

"It was probably one of the greatest flying days of my life.

Today, Paul has been visiting Pegasus Bridge as he pays homage to the skill.

He said: "D-Day wouldn't have happened without air supremacy. We needed the fighters to clear the airspace and then we need to use aircraft like the Dakota to fly in Paratroopers and air landing troops and the glider operations.

"It is really important to remember the skill and bravery of all those people. It is just remarkable."

He added: "D-Day for us in the west was a major turning point."