WHEN the volcanic ash cloud grounded all flights to and from the UK, and Martin Abramson urgently needed to get to Israel, he called on his aviator friend Simon Winters.
Martin – originally of Manchester – spends most of the year living in Israel and wanted to get back in time for Yom Ha'atzmaut on Tuesday. He was determined that the ash cloud wasn't going to stop him.
"Martin knew that I had flown to Israel a few times before, so he asked me if I could take him get back," explained Simon, who holds a private pilots’ licence.
"I told him that getting to Israel would take too long, but suggested we fly somewhere closer, where EL Al flights were still departing from."
He added: "We looked at the map and decided we could make it to Madrid."
Father-of-three Simon, who lives in Elstree, Herts, made plans for the flight to Spain, and the pair set off from Panshanger airfield in north London.
"The route we took was challenging," said Simon, who flew his Piper Saratoga, a propeller plane unaffected by volcanic ash, for a total of 10 hours.
Simon added: "We flew between 5,000 and 11,000 feet – below the areas of ash - and when we were over the Pyrenees we had to dodge thunderstorms."
It took the pals five hours to get to the Spanish capital before Simon had to make a quick turnaround and get back to London before nightfall.
"I had a packet of crisps, a glass of water and flew straight back," said Simon.
Martin managed to catch El-Al's evening flight to Tel Aviv and arrived back in time to celebrate Israel's birthday.
"Martin's friends were amazed at how he got back," explained Simon.
"Our families know we're amateur adventurers, so when you put the two of us together we can solve these types of problems."