Nonprofit gives biplane rides to local veterans

Dallas Vernon

LDR photo/Chris Roden

WWII veteran Dallas Vernon, 95, prepares to exit the Boeing-Stearman biplane after his flight in the type of plane he trained in during the war. He spent the war flying twin engine bombers and preparing for the invasion of Japan.

By: 
CHRIS RODEN ◆ CHRIS@LEBANONDAILYRECORD.COM

Some of the veterans at Floyd W. Jones Airport on Thursday saw an old friend.

It was a mostly white 1942 Boeing-Stearman biplane like the one they trained in while serving in the military. Other veterans flew in the plane for the first time.

The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation flew the totally restored plane that was popular in the 1930s and 1940s as a trainer from Decatur, Ill., to Lebanon to give veterans a chance to take a 20-minute ride to honor their service to America.

“It was wonderful to get to ride in the airplane that I learned to fly in, and it was really great even though they had to help me to get in because I was crippled, but they did a good job,” said Dallas Vernon, 95.

Vernon, an Air Force veteran, was stationed in 16 different places in the U.S. during the war when he flew twin-engine bombers, including the B-25, A-25 and B-26 after his training in the Boeing-Stearman.

“I was scheduled to go over to China and bomb Japan when Truman dropped the bomb. I did not go overseas. It saved my life because we flew low level skip bombing and strafing. That was dangerous. You never got above 200 feet flying. It was a dangerous job, so I probably wouldn’t have lived very long,” Vernon said.

This was not the first time Vernon has flown in a Boeing-Stearman since the war. About 20 years ago when he was a younger 75, he flew in one in North Carolina with his wife Pat.

This time was a little harder, but he had good help.

Darryl Fisher of Carson City, Nevada, co-founder of Ageless Aviation, was the pilot. At about 6 feet 7 inches tall, he was able to guide Vernon into the plane with the help of fellow pilot and mechanic Carl Gratriex.

“They did it. I was sure I couldn’t get in it and that I couldn’t by myself, but they made sure I did. It was great. They moved my legs. They took over my legs. When I needed to be lifted, they lifted me. They were determined I was going to fly,“ Vernon said.

For the complete article, see the Tuesday print edition of The Daily Record, or view the e-Edition online.

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The Laclede County Record

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