URBANA, Ohio (FOX19) - Every so often we all need a boost- a compliment, piece of chocolate, or to be carefully hoisted up into a World War II era biplane for a spin on a beautiful day.
The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation recently took eight members of the Springfield Masonic Home, veterans ages 78-94, for a flight in an open cockpit 1940 Stearman as a thank you for their service to the United States.
Founder and president Darryl Fisher created Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation almost by accident. He gave the first flight to a veteran on March 29, 2011, in his dad’s airplane. “It was one of those things that was such a rich experience that my wife said 'We’ve got to keep doing this’ and it spun from that first little dream flight into [now over] 4,000 flights for our veterans. And I also take out the trash,” Fisher joked.
A nonprofit, AADF is funded by personal and corporate donations and sponsorships.
“I’ve had the opportunity to fly some amazing people- people whose names you wouldn’t even recognize. But their sacrifice, the commitment that they had during WWII and to our military and for our freedoms- it’s been amazing because I’ve learned so much about history and human nature and the human spirit- it’s been unbelievable," Fisher said.
Some might wonder if it’s a good idea, taking 90 year old people up in an 80 year old plane.
“What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, when you want to do something, the human spirit, the human will- you find a way. I’ve wheeled tons of veterans out in wheelchairs to the airplane with their son or daughter chirping in my ear, ‘Hey we know dad can’t get in, just take tons of pictures.’ I’ll lock the wheelchair, he’ll stand up and virtually get into the plane unassisted. Because he wants to. There’s an inner desire that humans have, I’ve learned that by watching these seniors. And to me, that is incredibly powerful,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s team takes veterans for rides in the skies in the Boeing Stearman, a 1940 era biplane used to help train Army Air Corps cadets.
The plane Darryl uses cost a lot of money and holds a lot of memories. His grandfather bought it in 1946 and it has been in his family for four generations.
“This plane is just real special to me. If my grandma and grandpa knew what we’re doing now. They’re looking down and they’re real, real proud.”
85-year-old Navy veteran of the Korean War Ted Deisenroth asked if there was a parachute to wear. It didn’t matter either way to him, “I’m crazy enough to fly, but not crazy enough to jump out."
Back on the ground, he seemed a little dazed, in the best possible way, “It really is something.“It’s a real thrill to bank one side, then the other," said Deisenroth.
81-year-old Air Force veteran Bill Irwin gave the ride a thumbs up. “It was very windy and enjoyable.” Someone asked him, which was a better experience, this flight or the first date with his wife. “Oh, this flight was more enjoyable,” he replied emphatically. “Our first date didn’t go so well...”
The veterans were having a fun day and scores of volunteers were at hand to make sure everyone was well cared for, from the founder of AADF, to the CEO of the Masonic Homes, to Care Flight, a volunteer from Sport Clips, and others who recognized the vets as worthy of their time and energy.
Scott Buchanan, CEO of the Ohio Masonic Homes said, “If you can dream it, we’re gonna make it happen.”
93-year-old Navy veteran of WWII Adolph Krams summed up the day this way, “I’ve lived a fantastic life, but this, this was just so great. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
For more information or to donate to this fantastic program, please visit agelessaviationdreams.org