On the sunny morning of Aug. 12, four Covenant Living at the Shores residents took off from the Renton Municipal Airport on Dream Flights in a 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane.
Tom Norris (84), Sid Boegl (85), Doug Wilkinson (85) and Jack Nelson (83) each rode in the cockpit of the biplane and took off with smiling faces. The Boeing Stearman was used to train military aviators in the late thirties and early forties. All four residents are U.S. military veterans.
The flights were courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. The nonprofit organization was founded by Darryl Fischer in 2011 to honor U.S. military veterans living in long-term care facilities like Covenant Living. Its mission to “give back to those who have given” is fulfilled by a team of volunteer pilots and crew members.
According to resident services director Roxanne Helleren, this is the fifth year Covenant Living has taken veteran residents on a flight with Ageless Aviation.
“It’s so incredible to be a part of this,” Helleren said. “What really sticks out to me is the generational (gap) between the pilots… the conversation between them, I think that is special. It makes the (residents) feel that their experience years ago was valued and these younger people cared to ask about it.”
Wilkinson, Lt. JG, United States Navy (1956-57), said he was excited to ride in the cockpit.
“I’ve never done this,” he said. “Expectations… this is wonderful. What a privilege to be able to do this.”
Wilkinson served on the USS Brown, a Fletcher-class destroyer, as the main propulsion assistant and then transferred to the USS William Seiverling as an engineering officer.
Ageless Aviation has provided nearly 4,000 Dream Flights to veterans and older adults nationwide. The Dreams Foundation is dedicated to every senior, living and deceased.