90-year-old hops on Second World War-era Tiger Moth for a birthday flight in Saskatoon

A Saskatoon woman went down memory lane on her 90th birthday when she hopped on a vintage two-seat biplane from the Second World war era, similar to the one her brother had taken her on about 72 years ago.
Jo Reed is welcomed back to the ground by her family at Saskatoon airport on August 14, 2020. (CBC/Theresa Kliem)

A Saskatoon woman went down memory lane on her 90th birthday when she hopped on a vintage two-seat biplane from the Second World War era, similar to the one her brother had taken her on about 72 years ago.

Flying in a Tiger Moth again was a dream-come-true for Barbara "Jo" Reed, who was able to cross it off her bucket list on Friday morning.

"I never thought, you know, that I'd have a chance to do it again," Reed said.

"When I heard there was one in the museum here and talked to my niece she said, 'Oh, I'll see if I can make that happen.'"

Flying planes a family passion

Reed has been an adventurous woman all her life. When she was young, she thought her nickname Jo came from her being a tomboy. She later learned it was a reference to her grandfather Josiah.

"They called me little Jo," Reed said.

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      Reed was born in 1930 and grew up near Oxford, England. Both her brother and father were passionate about aviation. Her dad loved "everything that was new and inventive," she said.

      Her childhood was difficult during the Second World War, with Nazi Germany bombing England in the 1940s, her son Raymond Reed said. Jo's older brother John Frost joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1943.

      "They shipped him over to Canada … because it wasn't safe in England to train the pilots," Jo said.

      Jo Reed's brother, John Frost, joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) during the Second World War. After the war he remained in the reserve and had to fly a certain amount of hours to 'keep up his flying ability,' Jo said. (Submitted by Barbara Patricia Anne Reed)

      After the war Jo's brother remained in the reserve and occasionally asked his 18-year-old sister to join him for a flight at a small airport just outside of Cambridge. The only aircraft available to the pilot was a British Tiger Moth, a biplane primarily used for training purposes. Jo said those flights were "magical" experiences for her.

      "You know, open cockpit and the wind rushing by," Jo said.

      "Then he'd do aerobatics to see if he could get me to scream. But I didn't scream for him, so it wasn't much fun for him ...  It's like going on a roller-coaster."

      Jo finished her nursing training in England and immigrated to Canada in 1954. Despite the long distance she remained in close contact with her brother and his daughter, Anne Frost, who eventually moved to Canada herself.

      'You only die once'

      It was Anne who made Jo's dream of flying in a Tiger Moth again come true more than 70 years after Jo's original flights with her brother.

      "I am glad to represent [John]," Anne said on her aunt's birthday in Saskatoon.

      "He would be very happy to know that we were able to put this together for her."

      After counting down the "sleeps" until the day of her flight, Jo and her family gathered at the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum and Learning Centre by the Saskatoon airport on Friday for her special birthday trip.

      Having turned 90 that morning, Jo felt "just right on top of the world."

      "You only have to die once, so why be afraid," Jo said. "At 90? Come on!"

      In late 1940s Jo Reed's brother used to take her for flights in a Tiger Moth aircraft in England. On her 90th birthday she had the chance to fly again in a Tiger Moth, this time over Saskatoon. 1:29

      Jo was optimistic she would make it down again safe and sound. There was a big family supper planned for the evening, "with wine and everything."

      "I don't want to miss that," she said.

      Happy Birthday from the airport tower

      The vintage aircraft waiting for Jo was originally built in 1942 and used by the British Commonwealth training program in Nova Scotia, according to pilot Dale Tiedeman, who volunteers at the museum.

      As soon as Jo met Tiedeman on the the tarmac, she asked him if they could do some aerobatic maneuvers, like loop-the-loops. 

      While such tricks were not an option, the pilot promised some steep turns. Just before takeoff, a staff member from the airport tower sang a quick happy birthday, which the 90-year-old enjoyed in the plane through her headphones.

      "We're gonna be taking off from the grass," Tiedeman said to Jo through the intercom.

      "It will be just like the last time you flew in it."

      90-year-old Jo Reed from Saskatoon and pilot Dale Tiedeman prepare for takeoff. (CBC/Theresa Kliem)
      Decades after her brother took her for a ride in a Tiger Moth airplane, 90-year-old Jo Reed took to the air again in a similar aircraft on Friday in Saskatoon. She joined Garth Materie to chat about the flight. 4:32

      After about half an hour in the air enjoying the view of Saskatoon and the river, Jo returned to the ground with a big smile on her face.

      "Oh it was just so lovely up there,"Jo said. "He didn't do any aerobatics, but he tipped me off a few times."

      Tiedeman said he also had an "awesome" time with his birthday passenger. 

      "She is like a natural in there."

      Jo Reed enjoys a flight in a Tiger Moth over Saskatoon on her 90th birthday on August 14, 2020. People can book flights with the vintage biplane DH82 Tiger Moth at the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum and Learning Centre. (CBC/Theresa Kliem)

      Bucket list and golfing

      Jo enjoys staying active every day.

      "Last week I went [golfing] five times," Jo said.

      She is already looks forward to her next adventure. While flying in a Tiger Moth has been a special occasion for her, it wasn't the last thing she wants to accomplish.

      "Haida Gwaii is the last thing on my bucket list."


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