6,000 Dream Flight for 100-year-old veteran


By Kris Nuss

For Miami Valley Today

URBANA — “We’re here for one reason; to thank our WWII veterans,” pilot and co-founder of Dream Flights, formerly Ageless Aviation, Darryl Fisher told a group of people and their veterans as we waited for the fog to lift on a Tuesday morning at Grimes Field in Urbana. Safety is his number one priority, followed closely by fun.

“It seems kinda simple, but it’s what we do.” He shrugs and shakes his head. “We just can’t say enough, do enough to thank them. Today is a little bit different because I get to fly our 6,000 flight. And since I gave our first flight on March 29, 2011, it’s been a really amazing journey.”

Fisher and his team fly across the country to give free flights in restored WWII era Boeing Stearman Biplanes to our veterans. While his fleet have been restored and rebuilt, this plane helped win the war as Army Air Corps cadets used them to begin their pilot training before moving on to fighters, bombers, and transports. These PT-17’s (primary trainer) are a remarkable living history museum as we don’t see many WWII pieces of machinery in action. The Stearman helped win the war, then helped feed America in its role as crop dusters used up till the mid 80s. They were then used to entertain through airshows and recreational flying. And now through their use for Dream Flights, they’ve come full circle to help honor our veterans, which is a pretty neat thing for a piece of WWII machinery.

“We don’t view these planes as ours,” Fisher tells us with his hand on his chest. “They’re yours.” He then welcomes the crowd to come out and view the PT-17, “We love fingerprints, just be gentle.”

Dream Flights began back when Fisher’s father wanted to transport a restored Stearman from Mississippi to Oregon. He calculated that they’d need 15 fuel stops along the way. Since he worked in the retirement community business, he thought to call administrators to see if they could bring out veterans for a 20 minute spin at the fuel stops. He just wanted to have a great trip with his dad and honor a few veterans along the way. “Along the way” has now reached a milestone of the 6,000 flight, given to Navy veteran Don Muncie, who will turn 101 in October.

These flights were made possible by the hard work of Scott Buchanan, Sheila Wallace, and Mike Ullery, of the Springfield Masonic Home, along with countless volunteers and sponsors.

To watch the crowds at these flights is a fun thing. Camaraderie, laughter, stories. Excitement, awe, gratitude. Add the crew, the plane, and the veteran and you have magic.

Fisher shares that there’s just something about giving that gift of flight to a senior that, “… is, it’s just…you know, it should be an illegal substance,” he jokes. “I don’t know what to say, I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I’ve given over 1,500 flights myself and actually l like it better now because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing then,” he laughs. “Really though, that’s why all our volunteers are here today. When you see what it does -the impact you get to have on somebody- it’s really powerful.”

“It all started with a crazy idea,” Fisher admitted, with a smile.

For more information, please check out www.dreamflights.org .

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