This is how a Doncaster airline pilot is helping feed families across the borough

Usually, you’d find Dave Harrison above the clouds when he’s at work.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 4:45 pm

But today, you’re more likely to find the 46-year-old from Conisbrough shifting food in a warehouse or delivering meals distributed by a food bank.

That is because most of the time, Dave’s day job is that of an airline pilot.

He takes legions of holiday makers away on their dream holidays at the controls of a Boeing 737, operating from Doncaster Sheffield Airport, where he has been based pretty much since the former RAF Finningley Airbase re-opened as a civil airport in 2005.

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David Harrison, is currently volunteering at Food Aware, Hellaby. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Harrison Volunteer 5-NMSY

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But the coronavirus has put a pause on most of the tourist flights, as the holiday industry has coped with travel restrictions and lockdowns all across the world.

But married dad-of-one Dave has refused to be idle.

With time on his hands, he volunteered to help out at the Mexborough Food Bank, and at the Food Aware warehouse near the M18 at Hellaby.

David Harrison, pictured volunteering at Food Aware, Hellaby. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Harrison Volunteer 4-NMSY

Food Aware is a not for profit company that collects food, often which may otherwise have gone to waste, and distributes it to organisations like food banks, largely across Doncaster.

Dave said: “I’ve known Sean Gibbons who runs Food Aware and the food bank for some time, since I got in touch a few years ago, helping out every now and again at the food bank.

"Since lockdown I’ve not been able to work all the time as a pilot, so I asked if I could help again. I’ve been going two or three days a week, doing both food bank and warehouse work. Friday, I’m usually delivering food parcels.

“People used to come to collect – now we're delivering. They’re trying to run it so people don’t have to come out."

David Harrison, pictured volunteering at Food Aware, Hellaby. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Harrison Volunteer 3-NMSY

He said he had been involved since September, when more restrictions came in, and he was on a flexible furlough. He had a bit of a reunion too – among the volunteers is his former boss at the old Mexborough Tesco, from when he worked there as a part time job as a youngster.

Dave hit the headlines as a teenager, when he appeared in the Free Press after he obtained his pilots licence at the age of 17, back in 1992.

He said: “I’d always wanted to fly when I was at school, but it was too expensive. So I started working as a volunteer at the old Doncaster airport, where Lakeside is now, thinking I might be able to get some flying lessons. I helped with things like moving airplanes on the ground, and clearing up hangars, and helping with maintenance on the grass runway. I got a few free flying lessons.

"I took my first solo flight there in February 1992.”

David Harrison, pictured volunteering at Food Aware, Hellaby. Picture: NDFP-16-02-21-Harrison Volunteer 2-NMSY

He went on to get his private pilots licence and sponsorship from an airline.

He added: “I’m lucky to have a good job, but I always wanted to do something to help others. What I’m doing at the moment is enjoyable and helps others, including food banks and homeless shelters.

"When things get back to normal I’ll be back to work, but I’d still like to do a few days here where my days off allow.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.