IT WAS 1942 when Ted Greer of Santa Rosa last strapped himself into the open-air cockpit of a Stearman biplane and roared into the sky.
Seventy-four years melted away like warming clouds Friday as the long-retired Air Force lieutenant colonel beamed from the front seat of a bright yellow Stearman at the Petaluma Municipal Airport.
Once aloft, pilot and biplane owner Bryan Turner of Occidental let the 96-year-old Greer take the controls.
“It was a lot of fun,” the amiable World War II vet and career officer said afterward. “A nice ride, but very bumpy. I was mostly waiting for the next bump, which was very often!”
The flight was an old-time’s-sake gift to Greer from Turner and some friends. Greer was 21 when the former U.S. Army Air Corps taught to him fly in a Stearman. Impressed by his skills, his superiors made him a flight instructor.
For most of the war, Greer taught fighter pilots in the AT-6 advanced trainer and the P-40 fighter and ground-attack plane.
Widowed just three months back by the death of Rae, his wife of 69 years, Greer said he always loved to fly and to this day he prays that the quality of the instruction he gave to future WWII combat pilots helped them stay alive.
“I’m hoping,” he said. “I’m hoping.”