Sitting in the front seat of a 1940’s Boeing Stearman, local senior Ashley Royal could do nothing but smile as she was about to takeoff for a thrill of a lifetime.
Royal was among seven seniors at the Creekside retirement community that had an opportunity to fly in the open-aircraft that served as the primary trainer for the United States Army Air Forces and the U.S. Navy on Thursday at the Huntsville Regional Airport.
“I had not flown in any plane for 63 years, but I did not want to miss out.” Royal said. “It was a truly exhilarating experience.”
Flights were provided through the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, which seeks to “give back to those who have given.” Veterans are given priority when scheduling flights, but all residents were eligible.
The organization has provided over 1,000 flights across 31 states in its eight years of operation.
“Our sister facility in Texarkana hosted the organization last year and we loved the idea,” assisted living director Kristin Mizrany said. “We applied and now a year later we are taking our residents to the skies.”
Creekside residents taking flight included Royal, 80, Wynell Willis, 83, Joann Farrell, 87, Jenie Mitchell, 79, Charles Allen, 99, Gloria Baskin, 89, and Kent Mix, 62. Participants can take part in the flights every few years, but those over 99 can take flights every year.
“I decided to do this just for the heck of it,” Willis said. “I was nervous to be in an open-air plane, but it was amazing.”
Allen, a World War II and Korean War Veteran was a B-24 bomber during WWII, flying from England to Germany to conduct raids. Allen also flew General Douglass McArthur during the war.
“It is always great to see the excitement on their faces,” pilot Scott Delong said. “This is an experience they will never forget. It was unforgettable for me to be able to fly a man who once flew General McArthur.”
Residents were treated to 30-45 minute flights in the open air 1940’s era planes. Sports Clips of Huntsville, a sponsor of the organization, was also on hand to cheer on the residents following flights.
“We hope this becomes a tradition at Creekside,” Mizrany added. “This was such a great opportunity to show our residents a good time and we hope they had the time of their lives.”