Young fundraiser enjoys ‘best day ever’ at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Jacob Newson, 8, who wants to be a pilot when he grows up, received an all-expenses-paid trip from Etihad to watch the dramatic Formula One race

Plane-mad Jacob Newson said the highlight of his trip to Abu Dhabi was captaining the world's largest airplane. Photo: Etihad
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A young English boy who has raised almost $132,700 for charity since losing his mother to cancer last Christmas has spoken of his “best day ever” at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Jacob Newson, 8, who wants to be a pilot when he grows up, was flown to the capital on an all-expenses-paid trip by Etihad to watch the Formula One race.

But the highlight was piloting the airline’s A380 simulator in his very own uniform.

“This was the best day ever,” Jacob said after the experience, which included flying through a snowstorm.

“I landed the plane. That was the best bit.”

His father, Andy Newson, said they both had an unforgettable experience during the trip and he could not remember the last time Jacob was as excited as he was at the start of the race.

He said Jacob is a huge Lewis Hamilton fan and had to fight back the tears when he watched him lose the race in the final few minutes from their grandstand seats.

But he will be leaving Abu Dhabi with many happy memories, even if a protest against the result by Hamilton’s Mercedes team is not successful.

“I can not thank Etihad, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island et al enough for their kindness, generosity and going the whole nine yards for Jacob,” Mr Newson said.

“It was a trip I’m sure he’ll bore his grandchildren about every Christmas in the future. And a trip we’ll both remember forever and something that will take our minds off the fact Jacob’s mum passed away almost a year ago.

“Jacob’s highlight was going flying with captain Jihad and getting an Etihad captain’s uniform and wings.”

Capt Jihad Matta, head of crew performance and support at Etihad Airways, said Jacob landed the plane on his own under his guidance.

“I’ve never had anyone as young, or passionate about flying, as him before,” he said.

Jacob’s mother, Andrea, died of breast cancer on December 27 last year. He raised the £100,000 for UK charities in her memory by climbing Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, and the Yorkshire Three Peaks with his father.

Caption: Jacob had grandstand seats for the Formula One race, when he watched his hero Lewis Hamilton lose the race and world title on Sunday. Photo: Andy Newson

Their trip to Abu Dhabi came about after an old friend of Jacob’s mother, Donna Coulston-Smith, made an appeal on the Abu Dhabi Q&A Facebook page for contacts at Etihad.

Ms Coulston-Smith, who lives in Abu Dhabi, wanted to arrange a treat to reward him for his fundraising efforts and take his mind off the anniversary of his mother’s death.

The airline sent a tweet to Jacob’s Twitter account, Jacob The Pilot, to make the offer last month.

The hugely popular account has more than 13,700 followers, including Jonathan Wilcox, an engineer who is a member of Hamilton’s crew.

He even shared a picture on Sunday of Jacob and his Royal Air Force flag, which he took from the pit opposite their seats.

Mr Newson said Jacob’s followers have been a huge support for the pair through their hardest moments.

“They’ve been 110 per cent amazing and they are what kept us going in our darkest days.

“I loved the way social media pulled together today to look for Jacob’s RAF Flag and post pics of him with it.”

Updated: December 13, 2021, 6:04 AM