BEAMING with pride outside Buckingham Palace, the newly knighted Sir Bobby Robson told reporters: "It's very special – a once in a lifetime experience."

Sir Bobby was awarded his knighthood by the Prince of Wales 15 years ago this week.

Then aged 69 and manager of Newcastle United, the County Durham-born former England boss

was knighted for services to football.

Speaking beforehand, he said: "I think my parents would have cried with pleasure if they had been here to experience this.

"They would both be intensely proud and moved, and I know they would have loved the day as well.

Sir Bobby was joined at the Palace by his wife Elsie and two of the couple's three sons, Andrew and Paul.

Elsewhere in the region 15 years ago, Britain's first flying policeman took to the air again for the first time in 40 years.

Former Durham Police officer Jack Blair, 77, was the first bobby to take to the skies in a helicopter.

He took part in an innovative Home Office experiment in 1962 and his pioneering role as an observer led eventually to the introduction of high-tech flying police units.

To mark the anniversary of the test flights, the force took Fatfield-born Mr Blair on a guided tour of the North-East Air Support Unit at Newcastle Airport.

There to show him round was third generation Durham bobby and unit member PC Chris Todd, whose grandfather, Sergeant Bill Todd, used to work with Mr Blair in Fatfield, Washington.

Regulations meant Mr Blair was not allowed to fly in the £2.2m police chopper, but he got back behind the controls of a smaller helicopter.

"It took me back a few years," he said afterwards.

On his maiden police flight, 40 years ago, he took to the skies with a Canadian pilot, armed only with a 35mm camera and a radio.

Duties included shadowing armoured vans carrying payrolls to Durham miners. The experiment came to an end in 1964, when the Government withdrew the funding.

Mr Blair first flew in the RAF as a warrant officer during the Second World War.

A flight engineer on a Lancaster Bomber, he took part in 33 bombing raids and scored several successes, including a direct hit on a German battleship at Brest.

Also that week, history repeated itself when a new river crossing opened in Swaledale, North Yorkshire.

Reeth's first suspension bridge was built with money raised through public subscription in the 1920s, becoming a well-known landmark until it was washed away in the floods of 2000.

MP William Hague opened the new replacement bridge.

Meanwhile, Harrogate’s Royal Hall Theatre closed temporarily after a ceiling collapsed in the south corridor.

*Next week: Cheryl Tweedy prepared to sing for her future in the finals of Popstars: The Rivals.