Veterans Dream Ageless Aviation

“You feel like you really are flying through the air,”

World War II veteran John “J.J.” Schmid, 97, said, sighing,

once he landed 15 minutes later.

“It’s very different than getting on a regular plane, taking your seat and having a Bloody Mary.”

fl-ageless-flight-trip-03-2-jpg-20160315

Al Bunker, left, and pilot Mike Winterboer

go up on a Dream Flight at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines.

(Amy Beth Bennett / Sun Sentinel)

The Nevada-based foundation offers “Dream Flights”

to veterans and other seniors living in retirement care communities or nursing homes.

Tuesday’s fliers were from Covenant Village of Florida in Plantation, which is home to 75 veterans.

Taking a Dream Flight apparently can be almost as good as taking a swig from the fountain of youth.

“These veterans are at a point of losing a lot in their lives: their driver’s license, their hearing, their friends.

But I swear, when they get out of that airplane, they look 20 years younger,”

said Darryl Fisher, who started the foundation.

An Ageless Aviation representative contacted the community about booking the free flights

and asked for a list of interested veterans,

said Michele Smith, the village’s activities coordinator.

“I gave them the ones that I thought would have the stomach to handle it,”

she said, laughing.

Walt Wesner, 76, jumped at the chance.

An Air Force sergeant at the end of the Korean War, one of his big regrets was not taking the low-cost flying lessons offered to enlisted men while on base.

Later becoming a medical device designer, Wesner loved flying with friends in their small airplanes.

“You feel like you are part of the aircraft,” he said.

Vince Wilson, 85, said he spent his time in the Korean War shooting at airplanes instead of flying them, as he was a lieutenant on a Navy destroyer escort.

Still, he eagerly said yes to a Dream Flight.

“I’m going to feel like I’m on top of the world,” he said.

The foundation’s Fisher keeps a fleet of three classic Boeing Stearman biplanes.

A crew of three professional pilots — plus support staff, all volunteers — take the planes on Ageless Aviation tours, some of which include Fisher, who still flies.

The program is supported by donations, Fisher said.

The organization contacts communities and long-term care facilities, but these can also request a fly-by.

Preference is given to veterans but any senior in a care community can participate.

Fisher also is president of Mission Senior Living, which develops and runs retirement communities,

and he grew up with grandparents who collected historic airplanes and earned his first pilot’s license at age 19.

His family also was involved in the nursing home business.

So in 2010, when he and his father were planning to ferry a newly purchased biplane from Mississippi to Oregon,

Fisher came up with an idea:

Why not stop at care communities along the way and take resident veterans for rides?

“I didn’t know how I was going to even get them into the airplane, let alone what their reaction would be.

But everyone loved it,” Fisher said.

Ageless Aviation was born and, as of the end of last year,

has done 1,510 Dream Flights around the country.

Mike and Diane Winterboer, a husband-and-wife team from Oregon,

spend seven to 10 days a month volunteering to make Ageless Aviation dreams a reality.

An American Airlines pilot, Mike Winterboer flies massive commercial passenger planes during his work week.

Taking the Stearman’s controls is trickier, he said.

“You can’t let your guard down, and it takes a lot of work,” he said.

Yet he and his wife, a retired wildlife biologist, say Dream Flights are as much fun for them as they are for the seniors — and they are a way to honor veterans.

“A lot of guys trained in Stearmans during World War II, so it brings back a lot of memories,” Mike Winterboer said.

“I love watching their expressions.

If they want to take the stick and fly the plane, we let ’em try it.”

Shauna Monahan, Covenant Village’s resident life director, watched Korean War veteran Al Bunker walk determinedly across the tarmac,

leaving his cane behind to inch up the plane’s brilliant yellow wing and into the cockpit.

Bunker, 86, usually isn’t much of a talker, “but there is an excitement in his eyes today,” Monahan said.

“He’s reconnecting not only with his military service but with who he was in life.”

Bunker is the only one of the Covenant Village fliers who flew professionally after he left the military.

Small planes were his passion:

He used them to take sportsmen into inland Maine, tow advertising banners above South Florida’s beaches, spot fish in the Atlantic for fishing boats, and dust crops in Florida’s fields.

It had been 50 years since Bunker had sat in a Stearman almost exactly like the one used for his Dream Flight.

It took a few minutes for him to climb out and get his feet back on the ground.

His wife looked a little nervous.

Then Bunker took her arm and smiled.

“It felt like home up there,” he said.

More information: 775-291-2835, agelessaviationdreams.org

Four South Florida veterans soar on free ‘Dream Flights’

It’s never too late to soar.

Four veterans, ages 76 to 97, took to South Florida’s azure, cloud-studded skies on Tuesday, courtesy of the nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.

Up they went, one after another, leaning back in the vintage biplane’s, open cockpit, as it rose over North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines, leaving everything behind.

Then they could hear nothing but the wind.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/fl-ageless-aviation-dreams-flight-20160315-story.html

Al Bunker, left, and pilot Mike Winterboer go up on a Dream Flight at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines.

(Amy Beth Bennett / Sun Sentinel)

 World War II veterans take flight in Kissimmee

Updated: Nov 11, 2015 – 1:35 PM

KISSIMMEE, Fla. —

More than a half-dozen local World War II veterans took to the air in vintage planes Wednesday as part of an event at Kissimmee Gateway Airport to honor their service.

Niles Maroney, 92, took the first flight Wednesday in a World War II-era biplane thanks to nonprofit organization Ageless Aviation Dreams.

Related Headlines

KISS-VETS-PLANE_RIDE9_transf_345669_ver1_0_190_100

Photos: WWII veterans take flight in Kissimmee

The organization’s motto is to “give back to those who have given,” and what it gave Wednesday was free flights for veterans and their families.

Photos: WWII veterans take flight in Kissimmee

Maroney is a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Army who was captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge.

Ageless Aviation Dreams gives free flights to veterans all over the country in Boeing Stearman biplanes, which were used as training aircraft for aviators in the 1940s.

http://www.wftv.com/news/local/world-war-ii-veterans-take-flight-kissimmee/26846975

Advertisements