WHEELING — The plane isn’t unfamiliar, although Aleck Johnsen never flew in an open cockpit during World War II when he served in the aviation cadet program.
“I was just about to enter advanced training when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima,” Aleck said.
Today at 91 years old he is pulling on a leather helmet and goggles for a trip across the beautiful blue skies of Chicagoland as a thank you for the sacrifices he made so many years ago.
Aleck is one of a half dozen veterans from Covenant Village of Northbrook getting the ride of a lifetime today courtesy of the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation.
“Every day is a big day because we’re losing so many of our World War II veterans and so we have a real sense of urgency to honor as many of those as we can while we’ve still got them with us,” said pilot and president Darryl Fisher, who founded the nonprofit with his dad Bill back in 2011.
Darryl and his volunteer staff now travel the U.S. offering thanks to countless veterans who helped provide us with the freedoms we have today. Like Korean war veteran Charles Sengstock.
“I flew a lot in Korea in two-seater planes, but they were artillery spotter aircraft, and because the war was over it was essentially a taxi service,” Charles said.
A radio man before the war, Charles managed an armed forces radio station in Korea. His return to Chicago in the late 50’s brought him into the WGN newsroom.
Today’s flight from Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling was a completely different experience than he’s ever had before.
“It’s amazing when you get up there you can just see forever and it was a beautiful day,” Charles said.
Friends and family snapped pictures and posed with Darryl after each flight, as big smiles covered the faces of everyone in attendance.
The Fisher family says they’re simply happy to give a little something back to those who have given so much.