Last week, Ian Simpson was standing outside the fence of a Royal Air Force base in eastern England, snapping pictures of fighter aircraft taking off. He noticed a shower of sparks flying from the back of an F-15E Strike Eagle plane flown by U.S. Air Force Major Grant Thompson.
Simpson, who used to work in the aviation industry, recognized that there was an issue with the plane. He and a group of other aviation enthusiasts listening to flight control traffic quickly realized that the pilot didn’t appear to know there was a problem with the aircraft. He thought swiftly and did the only thing he knew to do—google the Lakenheath air force base’s phone number. He persuaded a switchboard operator to put him through to the flight operations at the base.
Simpson told the base that he had “lots of photographs of sparks coming out the back [of the plane].” The base relayed the message to pilot Thompson. While still in flight, Thompson’s wingman confirmed that there was damage to one of the engines, the base said. The pilot returned to base, “just to be safe.”
Simpson said he was motivated by the death of another young American pilot whose plane crashed into the North Sea on June 15, 2020.
“I thought someone should call,” he said. “I didn't want anything like that to happen to another family.”
Major Grant Thompson thanked Simpson by giving him a cap and insignia. Thompson even ripped the flight patch from his shoulder and gave it to Simpson.
The base noted Simpson’s actions in a Facebook post that won widespread attention, particularly from Americans grateful for his assistance.
“For me, the most humbling thing has been the families of servicemen who thanked me for doing what I did,” Simpson says. “I wasn’t expecting to get so much thanks.”
Ian Simpson demonstrated genuine care for others through his actions. He was spurred to prevent the loss of a life and hurt to other families. God calls us to care for and serve others both inside and outside of our communities. But He also calls us to do so with humility and a servant’s heart—seeking no additional recognition from others.
In what ways can you serve those around you with Christ-like kindness and humility today?
(U.S. Air Force Major Grant Thompson rips the flight patch from his shoulder to give to Ian Simpson, left, outside RAF Lakenheath on July 20, 2021. Capt Marie Ortiz/RAF Lakenheath via AP)