Ageless Aviation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring U.S. veterans living in long-term care communities, is helping Chicago area veterans cross off items on their "bucket list" with its Dream Flight program.
Eight Covenant Village of Northbrook residents, ranging in ages from 80 to 88, took to the skies last week at Chicago Executive Airport in a 1942 Boeing Stearman -- the airplane used to train military aviators in the late '30s and '40s.
Each participant took a 15 to 20 minute flight soaring 1,000 feet above the ground.
Nationwide, the Ageless Aviation Dream Flight 2014 tour allow World War II, Korean and Vietnam War veterans to experience the thrill of flight in an open cockpit plane. Since 2011, Ageless Aviation has provided more than 600 flights to veterans nationwide. Last week's flights are the only ones scheduled for the Chicago area. The fliers included:
• Charles "Chuck" W. Burke, 84, private first class, U.S. Army, Oct. 1951 to Sept. 1953
Chuck was stationed in Germany during the Korean War. During this time, he represented the United States in speed skating in the 1952 Winter Olympics. He grew up competing in figure skating, speed skating and barrel jumping. After competing in the 1952 and 1956 Winter Olympics, he became a skating coach, developing several U.S. and North American champions. An annual award bearing his name is given to the fastest male skater in the 1,000-meter race at the Northbrook Open Short-Track Competition.
• C. Howard Nordeen, 86, corporal, U.S. Army, September 1950 to September 1952
Howard was part of the first group of men drafted into the service from the Chicago area and assigned to the 503rd Combat MP Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Having recently received his engineering degree, he was assigned as communications chief for his company, in charge of setting up and operating radio networks.
• Armour Swanson, 82, corporal, U.S. Army, 1954 to 1956
"As a young boy, I made model airplanes, and to this day, I stop and watch a plane flying overhead. The open cockpit airplane flight has been on my 'bucket list' forever. Those pilots were some of the most courageous!"
• Kenneth Erickson, 84, private first class, U.S. Army, June 1951 to May 1953
"I became interested in aviation history while I was a member in the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) for about 10 years. I had the opportunity to attend several air shows in Wisconsin and Florida, and flew in a 1928 Ford TriMotor airplane -- which is older than me."
• Minoru Imamura, 88, technician -- 5th grade, U.S. Army, August 1944 to 1946
As a second generation Japanese American, Minorli was initially incarcerated with his family in an internment camp, but was later drafted by the Army to serve as a part of a segregated unit in Germany and France.
• Floyd "Arnie" Bock, 80, sergeant, U.S. Army, June 1957 to April 1963
Bock served six years of active duty and reserves, and spent two years in R.O.T.C. in college.
• Daniel A Cutrona, 84, corporal, U.S. Army, 1951 to 1953
Cutrona served with the occupation forces in Germany at the ordinance depot, which supplied ammunition to the entire European operation. He was assigned to records control and supervised German nationals who worked for the U.S. Army.
• Ray Smith, 87, corporal, Air Force, 1944 to 1946
"World War II was ending when I finished my basic training. I ended up staying stateside and becoming a cryptographer. Meaning I helped create codes for communication with our forces in the field and abroad."