It was three thirty PM on Friday, October 23, 2015. My cell phone rang with the expected call. It was Mike Sommers, one of four pilots for Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. Mike told me that he would be leaving Santa Barbara shortly and that his next stop would be Cable Airport.
Mike had been in Santa Barbara along with my friend Darryl Fisher, the founder of Ageless Aviation Dreams, giving Stearman rides to veterans. Ageless Aviation Dreams mission is giving, not selling, rides to aged veterans and seniors throughout this great country. They had a request to give a World War II veteran from Pomona a ride.
I arrived at the airport a little early; I knew that Mike’s passenger would be early. His passenger was an eighty- seven year old World War II veteran named Bob Johnstone and he was excited. I could hear the golden sound of the Pratt and Whiney engine before I could see the airplane and then I was excited. The wheel landing was perfect. These unpaid pilots will fly over six hundred Stearman rides for our veterans this year; in the past five years the number is well into the thousands. The thrilled look on our veteran’s face was something to remember!
Mike Sommers, the pilot who also flies for American Airlines, has a real gift of reassuring his passengers. The first hurdle is to get the passenger into an airplane that was designed for pilots and passenger in their twenties. The passenger was successfully loaded and with his headset on Mike started the engine. It was five thirty by then and the warm sun was shining on our mountains. What a time for an Airplane ride! Taxiing in after the ride the passenger’s face appeared to be that of a younger man who had just relived the past.
Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation operates three Stearman airplanes. They will give over 600 rides in 2015. This wonderful organization is the dream of Darryl Fisher of Carson City, NV. Darryl is still very much involved—he has over400 landing and 300 Stearman flying hours this year.
UPDATE This article is something I prepared several months ago for our newsletter at Cable Airport in Upland CA just days before they went to press. Approximately one week after his Stearman ride Bob Johnstone passed away.Please check their Website at Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation for further information.