Back in 1975 Frederick Forsyth wrote a short story for his wife as a Christmas present. The story was called The Shepherd. It tells the tale of a Christmas-eve miracle for an RAF pilot suddenly trapped above a solid deck over the North Sea with no electrical system and limited fuel aboard his Vampyre jet fighter. As he is flying and hoping radar stations in the UK detect him and vector someone to save him, from out of the fog comes another plane that proceeds to lead our hapless pilot to safety. Once safely landed, there are things for him to ponder about his saviour. A very fine story about generosity and selflessness with a good dose of mystery that leaves the reader scratching their head alongside the pilot.
Now the above is a work of fiction. But what just happened in the United Kingdom is reality. Jim O'Neill was flying his small Cessna at 5,500ft altitude when suddenly he could not see anything like the instrument panel. He made an emergency call for help. Luckily for O'Neill help was at hand in the form of RAF Wing Commander Paul Gerrard who was nearby finishing up a training mission. Flying loose wing on the Cessna, Wing Commander Gerrard and air traffic control guided O'Neill's Cessna to a slightly bumpy landing. Jim O'Neill was whisked off to the hospital where it was determined he had suffered a stroke from a blood clot that affected his vision. There is good news on this matter, O'Neill's sight is returning.
"It's one of those things you might hear about happening in some sort of all-action film but it's hard to believe what they did," Douglas O'Neill said of the RAF. "They were just tremendous."