Generous pilot gives WW2 vets one more chance to soar - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Generous pilot gives WW2 vets one more chance to soar

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

With an optimistic thumbs up, 87-year-old Gil Heinrich headed toward the skies Monday afternoon. He was one of eight long-term care residents--all U.S. war veterans--who flew over the northern suburbs, thanks to a program called Ageless Aviation Dreams.

All of them had the chance to spend 15 or 20 minutes in a World War II-era biplane, at an altitude of about 1,000 feet. It's the kind of plane that was used to train military pilots in the 1930s and 1940s.

"That was fabulous. Fabulous," veteran Gilbert Heinrich said of the experience. "I'd do it again, I would flap my wings if I could do it again and get up, but I don't think I can. It was terrific."

It's pilot Darryl Fisher who takes the vets up. He founded Ageless Aviation Dreams, a non-profit group dedicated to honoring veterans living in long term care facilities. He'll fly some 200 vets nationwide this year.

Among those going up Monday afternoon in the 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane, is 91-year-old Tony Thomas, a former Air Force aviation mechanic who had worked on the biplanes, but never been up in one.

"Oh that was great, I wouldn't want to miss that," Thomas said.

It was also the first open-cockpit flight for 91-year-old World War II veteran Ed Mahon, who served with the Army Infantry in the South Pacific.

"It was a beautiful view," Mahon said about the flight. "You could really see well. It was a great flight. They did a good job. I'm glad I did it."

Their flights took them over the Covenant Village in Northbrook, where all eight veterans now reside. It looked a little different from up in the air.

"You think you know all these places but you don't when you get upstairs. It just all looks different," Heinrich reflects.

The veterans ranged in age from 81 to 96 years old. One of them, Cliff Capp, is a retired U.S. Army Major General and was the first general to take to the air as part of Ageless Aviation Dreams.

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