Sunday morning a group of 90-101-year-old veterans were young again.
Ageless Aviation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping seniors and veterans in long-term care facilities soar. They have taken thousands of elders on flights around the nation.
Ardmore Veterans Center Administrator Shawn Kirkland first heard about Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation at a conference in Washington D.C. He returned to Oklahoma and took the information to Brig. Gen. Doug Elliot, executive director for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. They knew the World War II Veterans at the Ardmore Center would love the opportunity to fly again. “Shawn really made this happen,” Elliot said.
Sunday, they were proven right. Eight veterans agreed to come out to the Ardmore Executive Airport at the KMA Aviation fixed-base operator (FBO) to go up. Each was taken for about a 20 minute flight around the area in a Boeing Stearman. The Stearman they flew in is on its third job. The first was teaching young pilots how to fly during the war, then it was used for crop dusting. Now, the plane is flown by Darryl Fisher, taking veterans on flights to honor their service and remember a part of their past.
Fisher said he has done about 1,000 such flights since his first on March 29, 2011. “We go where we’re requested,” Fisher said. The oldest dream flyer is 103 so far, Fisher said. “Anyone who is over 100, we will take up every year if they want to go again,” Fisher said. That’s what he told Harlan Collins, the 101-year-old Navy veteran who was the first to fly Sunday morning. Collins was assisted into the plane by volunteers from Sport Clips and the Ardmore Fire Department. After his flight, he cheered and thanked Fisher repeatedly.
Each veteran was given a pin by Admiral Wes Hull, director of the Greater Southwest Historical Museum, and a hat signed by Fisher to commemorate the event. They will also be given photos, which included volunteers along with Brig. Gen. Elliot and State Senator Frank Simpson.