The sky was the limit Wednesday at Chico Municipal Airport as eight Vietnam veterans got to ride like the wind, courtesy of Dream Flights.
Alicia Rock, chief operating officer and general counsel for Northgate Aviation, the company that sponsors Dream Flights and pays for the plane fuel, has a special place in her heart for the program after her father, who was a veteran, died last year.
“I want to honor my father,” Rock said.
Different veterans from different military branches took to the skies Wednesday. One of those who flew Wednesday was Army veteran Ray Flowers, who served for three years. Flowers had flown in a helicopter before but never a small plane.
“I want to buy one of these Sandy!” Flowers shouted at his fiancee, who accompanied Flowers to see him fly, while getting settled into the plane.
Peter Blasingame was another Army veteran who flew in the Boeing Stearman biplane.
“I feel very fortunate to be here,” Blasingame said.
The pilot who flew the planes, Andrew Lohman, has been flying for Dream Flights for 5 years and has flown more than 1,000 veterans.
“We want to pay a tribute to Vietnam veterans,” Lohmar said prior to lifting off. “We honor your service to our country.”
The plane’s path was mostly directed toward Lake Oroville.
“I can see the change in emotions during the flight,” Lohmar said. “The veterans are a little nervous at first, but as soon as we take off and I see them in the mirror, they are wearing beaming smiles for the rest of the flight.”
Dream Flights says on its website that it is dedicated to honoring military veterans and seniors with the adventure of a lifetime. In 2021, during Operation September Freedom, 891 World War II heroes in 47 states were honored during a 61-day national tour, according to a press release.