Thanks for your service! Program in Ventura County honors vets with flights in World War II biplane
Veterans in their 80's and 90's soar into skies above the county as a tribute to their time in uniform.
It’s an incredible day for some Ventura County veterans. They are being honored for their service with the chance to soar into the sky in a World War II era biplane. 96-year-old Ted Utt just touched down at Camarillo Airport after taking part in one of the Dream Flights.
"I'd love to fly it to San Francisco," said Utt. "I'd like to have one (a plane) like this. I'd be 30 years younger...and I'd just stay up in the air...and wouldn't land very often. I guess the gas tank would make that decision."
Utt is one of a dozen veterans from a brand new retirement community in Simi Valley participating in the flight program.
"This is called Dream Flights, and it's a non-profit which honors veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, takes them on flights in a biplane," said Margie Vies. She's General Manager of Varenta of Simi Valley.
"We mentioned it to our veterans...we have about 12...and they couldn't contain their excitement about this," said Vies.
The veterans get the full rock star treatment, with the flights, photos, and commemorative baseball caps.
Utt said it was an incredible experience. He admits he’s surprised his wife Shirley went along with the idea.
"She wants to take care of me, so that nothing happens and I don't fall or all that stuff," said Utt.
"I think it's just incredible," said Shirley Utt. "He's been beaming ever since (the flight)."
The more than decade-old Dream Flight organization is a non-profit group which has planes, and volunteer pilots around the country.
Molly Littlefield is one of the program’s pilots.
"It's a foundation dedicated to giving flights to veterans... free Stearman flights to veterans," said Littlefield.
The pilots volunteer their time, and the organization's founders round up corporate sponsors to help pay expenses for the free flights.
Littlefield is a retired United Airlines Pilot, and says she loves being a part of the “Dream Flights” program. Her father was a flight instructor during World War II, and she and her brothers and sisters grew up in airplane cockpits.
"I already miss the sound of the engine," said Utt after the flight. "It's like a friend taking you around."