Veterans and seniors are taking to the skies over Waupaca, in an open-air biplane from the World War Two era.
Passengers say the Ageless Aviation Dream Flight was the trip of a lifetime.
His career in service to this country dates back to World War Two. Lew Harned was in the Korean War, and even retired as Desert Storm’s oldest Army Brigadier General. But the 94 year-old veteran says he’s never flown in an airplane quite like the Stearman.
“I can’t believe this,” laughed Lew Harned, Madison.
The open-air Stearman biplane called the Spirit of Wisconsin is on its inaugural tour around the state, giving rides to seniors and veterans.
After some help from the ground crew, Harned was ready to go. The yellow and black bird taxied toward the runway at the Waupaca Municipal Airport early Thursday morning.
“Our mission is to give back to those that have given. We do that by saying thank you with a dream flight, in this airplane,” said Darryl Fisher, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation President.
With the help of local fundraising efforts, Fisher worked to restore the World War Two pilot-training plane.
“It’s hard to fly. It’s fun to fly. It’s just an awesome experience with the biplane, the open cockpit. Whether people trained in them or not, or frankly it doesn’t matter what your age is, it’s just sort of a historic plane. People love it,” he said.
Lew Harned agrees. He says the view from 1,000 feet in the air is tough to top.
“The countryside, of course, is so lush, and it’s just beautiful up there. I didn’t realize all the lakes that were around. We went over, of course, the town of Waupaca,” said Harned.
After about 20 minutes, the Spirit of Wisconsin made its way back to the airport. Harned calls the ride the thrill of a lifetime. Pilot Darryl Fisher says there may be another mission in the future.
“When you reach 100 he said, we’ll take you up any day you want. I said I’ll take you up on that. It was just great,” said Harned.
The Stearman will be on tour this summer making eight stops around the state, including in Green Bay, and Oshkosh.