‘These guys fought and gave us our freedom and this is our way to say thank you’
(LEFT): Ace Robertson, local WWII vet, straps himself in for a ride with Dream Flights, a nonprofit that gives free airplane rides to veterans and seniors. Helping him get strapped in is Dream Flight founder and pilot, Darryl Fisher. (RIGHT): Don Jardine (left) of Ephraim, decorated WWII veteran, sits in the cockpit of a Boeing Stearman as part of an opportunity for him and another local WWII vet to fly in the historic aircraft. Behind him is pilot and founder of Dream Flights, Darryl Fisher.
EPHRAIM—Local World War II veterans went on one last mission when a nonprofit organization committed to honoring seniors and military service members took them on a special flight.
On Saturday afternoon, pilots for Dream Flights flew into the Manti-Ephraim Airport to meet WWII vets Don Jardine of Ephraim and Ace Robertson of Mayfield and give them a ride in a historic Boeing Stearman biplane.
Dream Flights is a Carson City, Nev. based nonprofit organization founded by Darryl Fisher with the goal of “giving back to those who gave” by honoring WWII vets and seniors with free flights on the biplane, which was widely used during the late 1930s and early 1940s to train military aviators.
Fisher started the nonprofit in 2011; but this year, after noticing WWII veterans were becoming less frequent, he launched Operation September Freedom. This project will take six planes across the country from Aug.1 to Sept. 30 in the hopes of providing as many WWII vets with Dream Flights as possible. According to Fisher, since Aug. 1, they have provided more than 300 flights.
“These guys fought and gave us our freedom and this is our way to say thank you to them at a point in their life where they really need it,” Fisher told the Messenger. “It’s kind of like a last mission for these WWII veterans.”
Dream Flights makes it very accessible to get signed up for those that want a flight, Fisher said.
“We don’t choose the people, the people choose us,” he said. “We just put the word out and they hear about it and sign up.”
In addition to Fisher and other Dream Flights staff, Jardine and Robertson were joined by local community members who came out to be supportive of the vets on their flight day.
“It was really cool,” Fisher said. “A bunch of people from town and local pilots came out. They were super excited to support these guys.”
The two vets, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience, are also pilots.
Robertson himself still owns a plane at 94 years old, and when he was younger, flew a PT-22, which like the Stearman, is an open cockpit aircraft. Robertson said both the Stearman and PT-22 are known for being good stunt planes, and stunt flying was something he had spent plenty of time doing.
“It doesn’t take a great deal of courage to do it, just a great deal of stupidity,” Robertson joked.
While there were no stunt tricks on their Dream Flight, Robertson said he had enjoyed the experience very much, and is very grateful for the opportunity.
Jardine joined the U.S. Marines at age 17 after being told he was too young to fly in the service, but later went on to get his pilot’s license.
“It was a very special experience,” Jardine said. “The pilot was a very special guy, and I think it’s great that they do this for veterans.”
Jardine and Robertson both agree the flight would have been a little more exciting with some aerobatics, but the “ride was smooth from takeoff to landing,” Jardine says. “I told the pilot [Fisher] that my grandma would have loved it.’”
Fisher said his time with the two Sanpete County vets was great. “We had a fantastic time with those two guys,” he added. “They were both really interesting—real characters. It was good for them to be back up in the air again.”