As a young boy, Jim Jessup remembers seeing planes training for World War II in the skies above his home, twisting and twirling through the air. He would look up in awe as the pilots practiced their dog fights, preparing themselves for war.
“I would watch them and think, ‘Oh man, maybe I could be up there someday,’” said Jessup.
Now, at age 87, Jessup finally had the opportunity to take flight in a WWII-era Boeing Stearman biplane as the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation returned to the Turlock Municipal Airport in April.
The foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring seniors and military veterans living in long-term care communities. The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation 2016 Tour provides rides to senior WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans, as well as senior thrill-seekers who want to experience the delight of flight. Since forming in 2011, the foundation has flown more than 1,500 Dream Flights.
Jessup, along with nine other seniors from Covenant Village of Turlock, strapped on a canvas headset and goggles before hopping into a plane just like the ones he used to watch as a boy. The plane took a 15 to 20 minute flight on a route that passed over the senior community at over 1,000 feet in the air.
“I’m looking forward to flying out over where I grew up, in the Keyes area,” said Jessup before the flight.
Fellow Covenant Village resident Lloyd Griffin saw Dream Flights as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. As a Specialist Fourth Class in the U.S. Army, Lloyd was stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War but, like Jessup, always wanted to take the controls of a plane.
“My aspiration was to be a pilot,” said Griffin. “I wanted to be airborne. I wanted to fly.”
While Griffin was enlisted, another officer would often take him up in his plane. Though Griffin spent every weekend on the beaches of Thailand, it was those rides that he remembers most.
“This flight will really bring back those memories,” said Griffin. “It will be a chance to relive those experiences, or close to it."
The Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation was founded in 2011 by Darryl Fisher with the goal of giving military veterans a chance to take flight again. For the Dream Flights program the Foundation uses three 1940s era Boeing Stearman airplanes, which happen to be the airplanes many military pilots were trained in during WWII.
“It’s an honor to be here and say thank you as you all have given so much,” said Fisher.