Friday, August 1, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Veteran pilots take back to the skies

WWII veteran Walt Rozett looks out from the front cockpit of the Boeing Stearman biplane as Ageless Aviation Dreams pilot Darryl Fisher takes off from the UC Davis airport Thursday afternoon. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | October 12, 2012 |

Darryl Fisher was smiling from ear to ear as he signed 89-year-old Walt Rozett’s flight log on Thursday, writing an entry below the last time Rozett took to the skies — Oct. 17, 1943.

Rozett served as a U.S. Army Air Force pilot in World War II. The chance to crawl into the cockpit of 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane for the first time in almost exactly 69 years had him elevated long after the aircraft had touched down.

“This was absolutely fantastic,” Rozett said. “This was one of the planes I loved. It just brought back such fond memories.”

A similar sentiment was shared by the other two former pilots who also lifted off Thursday at the University Airport on the UC Davis campus. The trio live at the University Retirement Community, whose staff helped organize the local “dream flights” through Ageless Aviation Dreams, founded by Fisher.

Soaring above Davis as part of the national service to veterans provided by the nonprofit Ageless Aviation Dreams brought back many memories that Rozett said had been tucked away. He recounted an important lesson he learned long ago following his flight with Fisher:

“We were using an open field for a runway, and my instructor was in the back seat of a Stearman. He told me to put my hands in the air and to look at him, which I dutifully did. He had his hands up, too. … He pushed the throttle forward, the airplane wandered through the field and finally took off. He said, ‘If you leave it alone, it will fly itself.’ ”

The nostalgic journey also was enjoyed by 87-year-old Claire Becker, another U.S. veteran who fought in World War II. Becker was part of the 359th fighter group in England, flying P-51s to provide cover on bombing runs in Germany.

“Light planes like this one don’t excite me much,” Becker said, gesturing toward the Stearman with a grin on his face. “But it’s definitely nice to get up in the sky again.”

Each participant enjoyed a 25-minute airborne voyage, which consisted of a tour of Yolo County farmland and a swing over Woodland. The pilots even did a pass over the University Retirement Community, soaring 1,000 feet above the heads of their friends and neighbors.

Wesley Yates, the one nonveteran of the group, took the opportunity to bring his camera along and snap an aerial shot of the long-term care community as they flew overhead. He learned to fly through the Cal Aggie Flying Farmers program years ago, when he was a faculty member in UCD’s agricultural department.

The vastly different view of Davis from the vantage point of a pilot was not unfamiliar to the local man, but he said he leaped at the chance to get into those high altitudes for the first time in more than 30 years.

“I’ve never really forgotten, as I’ve had plenty of time in the air,” Yates said. “However, I’ve never been in this type of aircraft, so this is a great opportunity.”

All of the former pilots were allowed to take the stick and maneuver the plane as it zipped through the skies on the clear, windy day. Fellow URC residents watched in awe and cheered as the historic plane weaved in and out of the clouds.

Fisher, who has taken nearly 150 high-flying adventures with retirees as part of the program, said being in the open-air cockpit of a Stearman can be most closely compared to driving “a Harley through the sky.”

“The nostalgia of the biplane, the freedom of being that high up and the wind in your face. … Every time I do these dream flights I have to pinch myself and say, ‘I actually get to do this,’ ” Fisher said, beaming with excitement after touching down.

Allowing veterans to take an exhilarating ride down memory lane is an attempt to return the favor to those who have served our country, Fisher added, but it would not be possible without the financial support of organizations that believe in the cause.

Willowood USA, a company that manufactures crop protection products, is the primary sponsor of Ageless Aviation’s Central Valley tour. The support allows flights through Wednesday in Modesto, Salinas, Paso Robles, Bakersfield, Visalia and Fresno.

“It’s important to honor veterans because they’ve served and fought for our freedom,” said Willowood representative Matt Heinze. “This is our way of giving back to them. … It’s great to see them going up and the smiles of their faces as they land.”

— Reach Brett Johnson at bjohnson@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052.

Comments

comments

.

News

What’s the buzz?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
Davis Reads book project focuses on veterans

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

Carbahal and Company celebrates 30 years

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

 
UCD chancellor is coming up for five-year review

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

A week of groundwater news in the Year of Groundwater

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Candidate goes homeless to showcase economic gap

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Increase in health plan costs is slowing

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Kashkari’s campaign coffers depleted

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Parents can learn all about IEPs

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

10 essential herbs are focus of Davisite’s talk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Bee beard photo wins award

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Businesses can learn about PR strategies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Enjoy films, beer at benefit Friday night

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Target hosts National Night Out celebration

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Digital device use is up among school-age children

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
 
Backpacks for Kids launches annual donation drive

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Seniors share homes for savings, companionship

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
City of Davis recruits for its advisory commissions

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Farmers Market shoppers can pick up free reusable produce bags

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
.

Forum

It’s not what they thought

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Protect and expand Medicare

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

It’s insurance against extremes

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Political cartoon was offensive

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Let’s gas up for TAPS

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Railroads, listen up and respond

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A8

 
Treat children as refugees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
.

Sports

Swimley recalls a budding star in Giants’ Susac

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
Nick Watney leads Barracuda Championship

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Stuart named to outstanding placekicker watch list

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Going, going, gone: A’s trade Cespedes

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Safety Bethea finding a groove with new 49ers team

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
UCD women’s golf tees up tough schedule

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’: Droll sci-fi hijinks

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
Barnyard Theatre adds ‘Pinky’ performance after sold-out opening night.

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

WOH to hold auditions for ‘Zuccotti Park’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
‘Tunes on Tuesdays’ come to Freeman Park

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Business

Grand Cherokee: A grand, and long, ride

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

Patricia Eileen Hershberger

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
John Vernon McLane Wayland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Don Fife

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Nancy Jane Fife

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Clara Meyerhoff

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
.

Comics

Comics: Friday, August 1, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A6