“It was awesome! “: 94-year-old Air Force veteran takes a tour of his life
Dream Flights is a non-profit organization created to give seniors and veterans the chance to fly in the cockpit of a WWII Stearman plane.
Ray Fairbank is 94 and will be 95 in one month. On Tuesday, he had the chance to fly over the Quad Cities in a WWII-era Stearman.
“I am so honored. I really am,” said Fairbank. “I am so honored to be here with all of these wonderful friends around me.”
It’s all part of Dream flights, a non-profit organization created to give senior citizens and military veterans, living in long-term care facilities, the chance to fly in the cockpit of a WWII aircraft. Fairbank’s daughter Mary Wells said someone suggested she name her father.
Fairbank grew up and went to school on a ranch in Montana. After graduating from high school, he was then drafted into the military in 1946. He joined the Air Force and said he wanted to be an aircraft mechanic.
“It’s really weird because the interviewer said, ‘Well your IQ was too high for that, and you have to go to the weather service,'” he said.
For three years, Fairbank was a meteorologist, using weather balloons to measure air pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed. This is what he did in 1947 for pilot Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier.
“We gave him the weather before they let go and then he climbed to 30,000 to 40,000 feet when he passed the speed of sound,” said Fairbank.
He then became an engineer and worked for John Deere. Fairbank even has eight US patents to its name. He also contributed to the development of aluminum engines for Ford and Cadillac.
“God has given me so many things that I am telling you,” he said. “He’s blessed me so much in my life, being just a stupid Montana kid on a ranch, and he’s just allowed me to do all of these things.
Tuesday was not the first time he had boarded a plane like this.
“I was about 17, and a friend of my dad’s got on a plane with a little plan,” Fairbank said. “He said, ‘Do you want to take a ride?’ And I said yes. He said, ‘Do you want a real thrill?’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ So he took me to a stall. ”
There was none of that on his dream flight.
“I was relaxed throughout the whole affair,” he said. “[He’s] a wonderful pilot. “
“He won’t sleep for two days after that,” Wells said. “He’ll be up all night, just reliving it.”
“I’m sure he feels like a little kid, because he’s still a kid inside,” said Cherie Fahrenkrog, a longtime friend. “He’s 94 years old.
Wells said the pressure was at the peak of the airplane adventure when Fairbank turns 95 next month.
“I don’t know. A hot air balloon ride? A sidecar with a motorcycle? I don’t know,” she said.