Dreams of flying
by JOYANNA LOVE Banner Senior Staff Writer
Aug 22, 2014 | 919 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Six area veterans get rare treat at Cleveland Jetport
LEONARD OLSEN, radio operator during the Korean war, gives a wave shortly before taking off on a flight around Bradley County. Banner photos, HOWARD PIERCE
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Six veterans from various eras and various branches of the U.S. military took a flight down memory lane, thanks to an Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation event at the Cleveland Regional Jetport.

Riding in the 1940s Boeing Stearman airplane brought back memories of their service.

Each ride in the vintage biplane lasted about 15-20 minutes. For many it was the first time they took an open cockpit ride.

Alvin Harris said the plane the veterans rode in reminded him of the ones he had flown in the U.S. Navy.

“The last 27 months I was in a Navy squadron, and we had different types of planes,” Harris said.

Harris served from 1943 to 1946.

“I was what they called a flight yeoman. I had to fly so much to qualify for flight pay, so I flew quite a bit,” Harris said.

The recent flight took him over his former Georgetown Road home.

Harris said that was his favorite part of the flight.

“It was beautiful. I hadn’t realized how pretty it was around here; I had forgotten,” Harris said.

The flight also brought back memories for Elwood Sperry.

“I grew up on a farm in Ohio and we used to have that kind of a plane — a Stearman biplane to dust crops for us in the summer,” Sperry said.

He said the plane would spray insecticides on the crops, mostly sweet corn and potatoes.

“But I had never rode in one before. That was a good experience,” Sperry said. “It was kind of a thrilling experience. It was a smoother ride than I expected. Nothing to it.”

Glen Smith said his favorite part of the event was getting to meet other veterans and spend time with them.

“It was something,” Robert Walent said. “I can remember when I was (a child) I used to watch these planes fly and just dream about flying.”

Being colorblind kept him from becoming a pilot. However, he was still able to serve in the U.S. Air Force. Walent joined the Merchant Marines in 1946, moving over to the Air Force in 1947. In 1953, he joined the Air National Guard.

“I retired from the Guard in 1990,” Walent said. “I’ve been around the globe a little bit.”

Smith served in the infantry in World War II

"I didn't volunteer. I was drafted,” Smith said.

Smith later became a squadron leader.

“I was 6 feet tall and weighed 133 pounds … and I happened to be on the end and they said, ‘You are the squad leader, and if you can show us you can do the job then we will give you a rank,’” Smith said. “I had a squad of 12 men with me all the time. … We lost a lot of guys.”

Sperry served in the Navy for two years, from August 1946 to August 1948.

“When I was in the Navy, the last station was at Point Mugu (in Southern California). It is a guided missile test center, and this was in the early stages of guided missiles,” Sperry said. “I had been trained by the Navy in both radar and radio repair, so my job there was to service the gear on Point Mugu and an island about 100 miles off the coast.”

Korean War veteran Mack Crawley said the Ageless Aviation Dreams flight was the first time he had been in a two-seater plane.

“It was an exceptional ride,” Crawley said.

He said he had seen similar planes in air shows in Chattanooga.

Crawley served in the U.S. Air Force from 1949 to 1953.

“I flew an old DC3 that was camouflaged — one of the oldest, safest aircraft that there was,” Crawley said. “We were going over some of the Russian situation to see what they could do as far as identifying friend or foe … how fast they could intercept.”

Vet Leonard Ohlsson got the honor of his flight being the first one of the day.