She’s eyeing altimeters instead of bingo cards and navigating flight patterns instead of nursing home hallways.
Creason is a woman of great spunk, whose spirit and sense of adventure have carried her on this journey in her 1991 Tiger aircraft, with a goal of landing in all 48 continental states.
She rolled her Tiger out of hangar F-10 at Grand Haven Memorial Airport on Sept. 6, and headed north with longtime friend and co-pilot Betty Young, 86. So far, they’ve checked off New York, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Flying at speeds of more than 100 mph for seven decades, it’s as if Creason has outrun the effects of age. Her mind is sharp like magnetos; her reflexes quick and responsive like the yoke she gently holds in her hand.
Although she’s been involved in many aircraft races in her more than 70 years in the air, this journey is not a race. It’s about treasuring the moments.
And although she walks with a cane and says her body needs more rest than it did on previous cross-country flights, she’s still able to crawl under the Tiger’s wing to check the fuel quality and still able to nimbly enter the pilot’s seat by climbing onto the aircraft’s wing, sliding back the cowling and stepping in.
She says she’s grateful that she’s still able to pursue her passions and stoke her ever-present sense of adventure. Her husband, Dr. Bill Creason, died a year ago this month. She thinks of him often, as she journeys heights some would consider halfway between heaven and earth.
Although few knew Creason and Young were departing Grand Haven over the Labor Day weekend for a multi-state tour, news has spread. They’ve been featured on several newscasts throughout New England, heroines in a hobby that is so often reserved for the young because of its demanding physical and mental nature.
“I haven’t done cross-country for several years because my health wasn’t that good,” Creason said from a layover in Providence, R.I., where she and Young were waiting out windy conditions.
They left Providence on Wednesday morning, landing in Wyndham, Conn., that afternoon, then departing for an overnight stay in Kingston, N.Y. The airport managers in Kingston loaned the ladies a car and they planned to visit an aviation museum in Rhinebeck, N.Y., today.
Creason was grounded for a time because of heart problems. She had a pacemaker installed last year.
“It took me a while to even want to get out there and fly,” she said. “I did not want to go up by myself.”
Creason would fly with family members, those she had taught to fly many years ago, then instructed local pastor Tom Cook.
“My giving him that little bit of a climb got me feeling more confident, too,” she said.
Creason realized that she had some unfinished business, something she wanted to prove to herself. The yearning for the wild blue yonder wouldn’t subside.
Last Christmas, she stepped out on a wing and ran the idea by her family.
“I said, ‘I need your permission to go on a trip that I think I want to take — I want to go to all the states in the lower 48,’” she recalled. “Everyone said, ‘Go for it, Mom.’”
Creason phoned Young, who lives in Augusta and flies a Cessna 172, and asked if she would like to join the journey. Creason handles flying duties; Young helps with navigation.
“Our first landing was in Port Huron — St. Clair County Airport,” Creason said.
The duo stopped there to refuel so they could fly over Canada without having to land and go through customs.
The next stop of their first day was Syracuse, N.Y. They spent two nights there.
Haze caused them to land in another New York town, foregoing initial plans to land in Vermont.
The following day, Sept. 9, they landed at a small airport in the Appalachian Mountains — Springfield, Vt.
“That was a fun airport,” Creason said. “They had a lot of gliders. We wanted to stay and do some gliding, but we figured we ought to head out.”
They continued on to Maine, then spent a few days in Manchester, N.H., where Young’s granddaughter owns a farm.
They’ll hit Pennsylvania and Ohio, with plans to return to Grand Haven (weather permitting) by this weekend because they plan to take part in the Michigan Air Tour.
Creason said she will do the 48 states in stages.
“On this trip, we’re not even thinking about the rest of them,” she said. “We’re only thinking about New England. We’re doing one trip at a time.”
Creason said there are too many weather variables to know when she will complete her quest. Her main goal is to enjoy the journey, to stop and have fun along the way and not let the potential for new adventures be squelched by a schedule.
“When you fly and you finish the flight, you have accomplished something,” she said. “It’s a sense of satisfaction that you can do it, even at 90 years of age.”