Some of them once were pilots, but all had served their country in the military, either on the ground or in the air. On Wednesday, they all got to soar.
Eight seniors, residents of Seashore Highlands Retirement Community in Gulfport, rode in a World War II-era biplane through the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. Million Air Gulfport-Biloxi provided the facilities.
The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is a nonprofit organization that works with seniors and U.S. military veterans who live in long-term care communities. The Gulfport adventure is one of three in the state that volunteer pilot Tim Newton and his wife, Grace, will provide for Methodist Senior Services residents. Other flights will be in Meridian and New Albany.
The eight Seashore Highlands residents are Kay Carlow, , 1954-60; Newton Hanson, Army, World War II and Korea, 1944-52; Ted Hearn, Army, 1954-87; Elaine Mangano, Navy Nurse Corps, World War II, 1945-46; Bill McLaughlin, Navy, 1973-77; Sherman Muths, Air Force, 1954-70; Ed Pullis, Air Force, World War II and Korea, 1945-68, and Bud Ryan, Air Force, 1973-95. Robert Parker was an alternate.
Newton is retired for the U.S. Air Force, after 26 years of service, and now is a pilot with Federal Express. Grace Newton, who refers to herself as the ground crew, works at the Army Residence Center in San Antonio, where the couple live.
“Tim gets to work this around his job. I take vacation time from work to do this, and I love it,” Grace Newton said. Tim Newton flew T37s, T38s and F16s in the Air Force. Ageless Aviation has three biplanes in its fleet.
Ed Pullis proudly wears the flight suit he wore during his last years of active duty service in the U.S. Air Force. Pullis was one of eight Seashore Highlands Retirement Community residents who took flights in a World War II-era biplane on Wednesday.
“Last year, we provided about 800 flights,” Tim Newton said. “This year, it probably will be around 1,000 flights.”
The plane for Wednesday’s flight is a 1942 Boeing Stearman, the type of plane used to train military aviators in the 1940s. It was fully restored in 2004.
Elaine Mangano was first to go up. The 93-year-old Navy nurse’s daughter Gail held onto her mother’s scarf for the flight, which took each senior down to the beach, then to the right to Pass Christian and back to the airport. Because of brisk winds, Newton chose a long taxi for takeoff and the landing.
Newton carefully helped Mangano into the two-seater plane, and representatives from major sponsor Sport Clips assisted. Earlier, Mangano had said she had never flown in a military plane before, but she has flown commercially.
Once safely seated, strapped in and miked for sound, she gave a jaunty thumb’s up to those surrounding the plane. Then she donned a retro aviator’s cap, got more instructions from Newton, and the pilot started the plane for the 15-minute trip.
When they returned and while still boarded, Tim Newton asked Mangano the secret to her long life. “Oh, I can’t tell you,” she said, laughing. Then she said, “Every evening I have a little sherry.”
Later, in Million Air’s lobby, she said the flight was “very smooth and surprisingly quiet.”
As he waited for his turn in the plane, Ed Pullis showed he was still able to wear the flight suit from his last stint in active duty. He retired from Keesler as a lieutenant colonel in 1968; he had various jobs after that but perhaps is best known as “Capt. Ed” of Capt. Ed’s Vacation Cottages in Gulfport, where many families spent summer vacations on the Coast years ago.
“It still fits,” he said proudly.
Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1
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