Ageless Aviation flies seniors into ‘fabulous’ territory via biplane
September 9, 2012
Dayton’s Darryl Fisher flew Carson City’s Clarence Stephan skyward without a hitch, the elderly passenger giving a thumbs up signal both going up and coming down.
“It was great,” said the 73-year-old Stephan as he got out of the restored Steerman single-prop biplane at Carson City Airport after about a half-hour in the air Wednesday. “Fabulous.”
Stephan, originally from Wisconsin and then Dayton before moving to Carson City, now lives at The Lodge, an assisted living and memory care center.
He was among a few fortunate elderly folks who took the mid-week trip heavenward as part of a program Fisher has led since April 2011.
Called Ageless Aviation Dreams, the nonprofit foundation takes seniors up for a ride whether they have small aircraft flight experience or not. Often, aging pilots or military veterans take the ride, but so do other folks.
Fisher estimated his ridership up to now has consisted of 50 percent veterans, 25 percent former pilots with or without experience in the military, and 25 percent those just enjoying an adventure.
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Fisher, 49, spent years in the senior housing field as an executive with a firm that had facilities in 38 states. Now he is starting his own company in Northern Nevada. The first facility is going up in Fernley.
The pilot started flying seniors well before he began the foundation.
The first time was when he and his father flew commercially to Mississippi to pick up a restored plane.
He asked his dad if they could give such rides, and his father thought it was a great idea.
The first recipient was a fellow named Hugh Newton, who “was just beside himself” with joy at the opportunity in Oxford, Miss. Fisher said it was a joy for him, as well.
“It was just such a rich experience,” Fisher said. He added that he told his wife: “That was so cool; we need to figure out a way to do this more.”
Fisher, for whom flying is a passion, had grandparents who flew, as did his father. He is a commercially licensed pilot, though he didn’t take that up for a living. He restored his biplane, which took him two decades.
With Fisher was Doug Treganowan, whose father, Dwight, enjoyed one of those prefoundation flights in Oregon, the state from which Fisher and Treganowan moved to Northern Nevada.
Also wearing Ageless Aviation Dreams gear and taking pictures as the day progressed, Treganowan recalled that his dad, since deceased, never forgot the trip in 2010. Despite dementia, he said, Dwight loved showing visitors a picture of that flight.
It’s unlikely Stephan will forget his flight, either.
Stephan, whose wife, Jean, said he has Parkinson’s disease, meant every word of praise for the flight once he was back on the ground. He was asked if he could do it again, how soon he would want to go up.
“This afternoon,” replied the Navy veteran and former corporate security employee of a Wisconsin utility. He grinned and donned an Ageless Aviation Dreams cap.
Also on hand awaiting their chance to take a flight were Joe Tapp, in his 90s; Vivian Molnar, also in her 90s; and Harry Prokop, 80 next month and another Navy veteran.
Fisher, meanwhile, said he was looking forward to returning to Oregon for a 9/11 commemorative program in Roseburg, Ore.
“We’re doing a tribute to heroes on 9/11,” he said.