LAWRENCE, Kansas — Oct. 11, 2018, was a cool and breezy day, but that didn’t stop 104-year-old Norma Evans from climbing into the cockpit of a 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane and becoming the oldest person to take flight with Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
Wearing blue jeans cuffed at the bottom to show a farmer’s plaid, a jean jacket, and warm gray gloves, Evans walked briskly to the plane on the arm of Darryl Fisher, pilot and founder of AADF. With some help, she used a step ladder to climb onto the wing and into the cockpit, where the crew buckled her in and put on a canvas helmet before taking to the skies.
About 25 minutes later, she was back on the ground, all smiles.
“It was very windy and cold,” Evans said. “But it was awesome. I loved it.”
“Norma’s an amazing, inspiring woman,” said Fisher. “We flew her last year at 103 and we are honored to fly her at 104.”
Asked by Fisher if she’ll fly again next year, Evans quipped, “If you’re able.”
This was Evans’ second Dream Flight with AADF. Amber Vaughn, the activities coordinator at Meadowlark Estates, a retirement community, said last year Evans greeted the opportunity to fly with some hesitation.
Not this year, however. “This year, she didn’t hesitate to say yes,” Vaughn said.
Watching and cheering her on were her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“We don’t feel old because my mother is 104 and up there flying in a plane,” said Deloris Myers-Robb, her oldest daughter.
When Evans turned 104 Aug. 1, she was interviewed by a reporter from a local TV station. Her secret to longevity, she said, was to stay busy.
In addition to raising two daughters with her husband on an 80-acre farm, she did a lot of card playing and dancing.
“My hands were always busy. I was always knitting, crocheting, sewing, doing something,” she said.
Evans was just one of several who were able to fly at Hetrick Air Services at Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWC).
Other Dream Flyers from Meadowlark Estates included:
- Don Turner, U.S. Army, Vietnam War
- David Bleber, U.S. Army, Korean War
- Drury Forinash, U.S. Navy, Vietnam War and the Reserves
- Frank Day, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, Korean War
- Ken Fisher, U.S. Navy, World War II
- Beverly Backhaus, the wife of a World War II veteran and a member of the American Legion Auxiliary
- Lillian Taylor, aviation enthusiast
“Our mission is to give back to those who have given,” said Fisher. “We appreciate and are thankful for the military veterans who serve our great nation.”
Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation
Since 2011, Carson City, Nevada-based AADF has given more than 3,300 dream flights in 42 states. Its mission “To give back to those who have given” is fulfilled by a team of volunteer pilots and crew members who travel the country in one of three fully restored Boeing Stearman biplanes.
A fourth aircraft named the “Spirit of Wisconsin” was recently purchased using funds raised by volunteers in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and neighboring communities. Stationed at Stevens Point Municipal Airport, the plane will serve those living in the Midwest.