An old biplane soared over Urbana as nine veterans living at the Springfield Masonic retirement community took to the skies Friday morning.
For many of them, it had been years since they last took a trip in an airplane, let alone in a restored 1940 Boeing Stearman biplane. The event was coordinated by the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation that seeks to get aging veterans up in the sky one last time.
Darryl Fisher, who founded the non-profit, said he partnered with the local retirement community so he could give its veterans a unique surprise. He said it’s his way of thanking them for their service to the country.
“These veterans have given us so much. They have sacrificed in ways we can’t even imagine. Now they are in a point in their life when their world is getting pretty small,” he said.
Piloting his grandfather’s old plane, Fisher flew each of them out of Grimes Field airport for a trip around Urbana.
“I literally get to see a transformation right before my eyes, from when they get into the airplane to when they get out. Like one of my crew chiefs said, it’s a time machine,” Fisher said. “People go in at 90 and they come out at 65 or 70 in their attitude and they have a spring in their step.”
For Navy veteran Ted Deisenroth, who has been living at Springfield Masonic for about three years, it was his first time flying in the old biplane. He had worked on planes for four years during his time in the service after enlisting as a young man in the early 1950’s.
“I never have been in a small plane like this,” he said. “It’s really something, you look down and see the lakes and the trees and once in a while the plane banks to one side or the other and it’s a real thrill.”
Deisenroth said it was perfect way to celebrate his birthday as he turns 86 on Saturday.
“It is a wonderful birthday present. It is the best thing I can think of,” he said.