KEARNEY — “Wonderful.”
That was how two members of the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home described their flight in a Boeing Stearman open cockpit biplane Wednesday at Kearney Regional Airport.
“I wish I could do that every day,” said John Exstrom, 93, of Minden, smiling from ear to ear. “That was a wonderful, wonderful time. I didn’t even get seasick.”
Eight members from the CNVH flew in the front seat of the yellow biplane Wednesday. Flights were provided by the Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation, which travels across the nation providing free flights to veterans.
Members were helped into the cockpit and given quick instructions from pilot Scott DeLong of Geneva on which pedals and buttons not to touch, and the thumbs-up or -down signal to use to communicate with him during their trip.
The 10- to 15-minute flight took vets over the CNVH, The Archway and the Platte River.
“I really enjoyed it a lot,” said Rickey Fuqua, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, as he gave a thumbs-up after landing back on the tarmac.
Fuqua, a Kearney native who worked as a road grader for Buffalo County, served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 and later served in the Army National Guard. The last time he was in a biplane was years ago on a fishing trip to Canada.
Exstrom, who had 10 brothers who served in the military, served with the U.S. Navy on an ammunition ship from 1944 to 1946.
“I enjoyed every minute of it. I liked that plane,” he said.
Veterans’ Home members have participated in the free flights for several years, said Nancy Klimek, manager of recreation and volunteer services at the CNVH.