SUMTER, SC (WIS) - A nonprofit group offering free dream flights to veterans all across the country was back in the Midlands on Friday.
A fully restored World War II aircraft was brought in for the event at the Sumter County Airport. Most vets say it's the ride of a lifetime. This year's participants were between the ages of 81 and 101 years old, but you would never know it as they prepared for takeoff.
The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to honoring seniors and military vets.
"It's one of the biggest things that's happen to me in a long time," says 89-year-old veteran, William Hartley.
The group travels across the country offering free dream flights. This year, residents at the assisted living facility, Morningside in Sumter, were chosen for this extraordinary honor.
After a 10-minute ride above Sumter, Hartley says it was a "whole different experience. When you have that open cockpit and the air flowing and you look down - you look on either side of the plane and see everything that's going on - it's fantastic."
The passengers got the chance to ride in a fully restored Boeing Stearman biplane, which can often bring back nostalgic memories for our seniors and vets.
"I've seen the biplanes in movies and such. I guess the generation today didn't get to see that, but we got to see it at the movies and got to see it at fairs. There was a pilot who brought his plane into the county fair and he'd take you up for a ride for $2," says Hartley.
"I flew in planes as small as this, but not the bi-wing. So, it was an experience," Harry Bausman, an 82-year-old veteran, said.
There were seven different flights, including one with a 101-year-old military wife aboard. Each ride ended with a photoshoot, and a special hat signed by the pilot.
"I think it's a good thing they're doing, and I hope they continue doing it," says Bausman.
Hartley says it feels like you're free while encouraging other veterans to take part.
"If you get a chance, take the ride. Man, I tell you, it's worth it. You'll give it two thumbs up, not just one."
Ageless Aviation has provided 1,900 free dream flights since 2011.