Pilot’s Last Flight
This article is part of a series:
For Christmas of 2003, I found a gentleman at a local airport who owned a T-28, one of the primary trainers my dad had flown earning his wings. I offered to pay him to take my dad up for a flight in his plane, but he agreed to do it and refused payment. For Christmas, dad unwrapped a certificate for the ride, and was ecstatic.
After the first of the year, in early 2004, we took him to the airport for his ride. Dad had been suffering from what the doctors called Parkinsons for about the last 5 years, though they were never sure that’s exactly what it was, and some thought it might actually have been the result of exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. He could hardly even communicate effectively any more, and just getting him into the cockpit of that big bird was a chore. In that first photo of him and I, you can probably notice his slouching demeanor and almost vacant look on his face. That was typical.
When they returned, the plane owner told me he had turned the aircraft over to my dad, who took the controls and flew rock steady for most of the time they were in the air. Dad was way past the stage of being able to drive, and he could hardly even care for himself by this point. When dad got in the car for me to drive him home, he was more lucid and communicative than he had been for probably 2 years. His eyes were bright, shoulders not as slumped, and he conversed excitedly all the way home. All I can think is that the adrenaline kicked in. By the end of the year, dad was gone, saying good bye for the last time in Sept. He always has been my number one hero, not just as a pilot and USAF officer, but as a father and friend, and the best example I have of a faithful husband and compassionate minister.
I have just had all of the photos shared in this series made into a large format picture book, with that last portrait of him in an F-105 gracing the cover. As much as I love flight, aircraft and scale aircraft modeling, I love him even more, and it does and will bring tears to my eyes every time I flip through it (excuse me while I reach for a tissue...).
Thanks for indulging me just a little family background as I posted pictures that I thought most aircraft enthusiasts would enjoy. Now that I had these in a sharable format, I thought it would honor him and his love of flight to make them public.
4 additional images. Click to enlarge.