Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

Flight of a lifetime for veterans


Cindy Glasson

Bob Keith is all smiles after landing at Hot Springs County Airport in the 1940s Boeing Stearman bi-plane on Saturday. Keith was one of a number of veterans from the Wyoming Pioneer Home who got to take the flight provided by Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. Keith even got to take the "stick" for a while, adding to his flight log book.

How many times in your life have you thought to yourself, "I wish I could go back"? Eight gentlemen from the Wyoming Pioneer Home had a chance to go back for a little while on Saturday morning as they participated in the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation's flight of a lifetime.

The former military veterans were treated to a free flight from the foundation whose mission is simply, "Giving Back to Those Who Have Given."

Captain Mike Winterboer was pilot for the day, taking the veterans up in a vintage, 1940's Boeing Stearman bi-plane. The Stearman was used during WWII for training pilots, and Winterboer said if a man could pilot the Stearman, he would have no problems flying anything else, as visibility in the Stearman isn't the best, requiring the pilot to use peripheral vision more than anything to fly it.

Winterboer is a board member of the foundation as well as a commercial pilot for United Airlines, doing these flights in his spare time. His wife, Diane, comes along to interview each veteran and snap a few photos of the event.

Outfitted with vintage head gear, each veteran was helped into the open cockpit, taking the front seat and a few instructions before taking off for the 15 minute flight. They were able to see much of the surrounding area, even creating a bit of a stir at the Cowboy Rendezvous Rodeo Parade downtown as they flew over.

The smiles on their faces and the light in their eyes after they land are all the recognition Winterboer needs to continue with his mission.

One of the gentlemen, Bob Keith (Army, 1952-1954), arrived for his flight in a brown leather bomber jacket with his flight log in hand.

Keith had not flown since his military days, however he and Winterboer looked through his flight log and made a deal to get in a little "stick time" during the flight.

After they landed, Winterboer wrote the entry in Keith's log that showed he had taken the controls for a while during the flight, adding his official signature.

Each man who flew received a personalized Ageless Aviation cap, which Winterboer personally signed, thanking them for their service.

The veterans from the Pioneer Home included Al Jackson (Navy, 1943-1946), Lester Nielsen (Army, 1944-1946), Bob Saltz (Army, 1952-1954), DeWain Raasch (Army, Purple Heart, 1950-1953), Lloyd Harris (Navy and Marines, 1941-1946), Earl Wallace (Army, 1946-1960), Bob Keith (Army, 1952-1954) and Milton Schenk (Air Force, 1966-1967).


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