Friday, 24 May 2024

Seniors get chance to take flight

LAKEPORT – Three very senior citizens enjoyed the realization of their lifelong dream of flying on Wednesday.


Mary Steeves, 85, Raymond Hawkins, 92, and Manuel Borba, 84, live at Orchard Shores Assisted Living Center, which recently took a survey asking a simple question: If money, health and time were not factors, what would you like to do with the rest of your life?


Steeves, Hawkins and Borba all wrote that they had a lifelong dream to fly.


That's when Jane McKnight, program coordinator at Orchard Shores, contacted Nancy Brier of Solo Flight School. The two women, with help from a generous community patron, put together a plan.


The residents were assembled sometime later the following week, but they had no idea why. The room was decorated with images of airplanes from a bygone era, and some of the residents’ family members were in attendance.


McKnight took the stage and began to read survey responses aloud to the residents. She told them all that their dreams were about to become a reality.


“When I started to read Mary Steeves’ description of her dream to fly, her face suddenly lit up, realizing that her dream was about to come true. ‘I wrote that! I wrote that!’ she exclaimed. Then she put her head in her hands and wept. It was a moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said McKnight.


Steeves’ daughter, Donna Sage, attended the assembly of nursing home residents and witnessed her mother’s reaction to the news.


“In all these years,” she said, “I never knew my mother wanted to fly.”


Back in World War II, Mrs. Steeves worked on airplanes as part of the nationwide effort to defeat the Nazi’s, but she never got a chance to fly. On Wednesday, she got her chance.


Each senior citizen went up in the air with an Federal Aviation Administration-approved certified flight instructor for an aerial tour of the spectacular Lake County landscape. During their ride, they had the option of taking the controls.


Solo Flight School’s Chief Flight Instructor Vern Childers is himself a veteran of the Vietnam War and a history buff. “These people remind us all to keep dreaming, that dreams can come true at any age, in every walk of life.”


Solo Flight School’s Chief Executive Officer Gary Trippeer took care to ensure that the school’s VIP students got extra special treatment during and after the flights. Lunch was served at the flight school and family members are encouraged to attend.


Local pilots were alerted to have aircraft shined up and ready for inspection. Solo Flight School’s own vintage 1941 Stearman was on display.


“The entire aviation community here in Lake County is enjoying this experience,” said Bill Ellis, owner of a Luscumb 8A, a Bonanza D35 and a pilot who still flies at age 90.


After the flights, each participant received their own log book documenting their flight time as well as a Certificate of Achievement.


“The dream of flight is nearly universal,” said Trippeer. “We are extraordinarily fortunate here that we get to see dreams come true every day.”


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