The Rev. Arthur “Art” Stejskal, 90, never got to fly during his time in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was a clerk in 1947.
“I was in charge of enlisted men separation, so I had a lot of happy customers,” he said. “I did the discharges ... I always wanted to fly, and being a missionary in Taiwan I never had the opportunity.”
A few lucky veterans and citizens got the chance to climb into the cockpit of a WWII-era plane Friday morning at Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport.
Stejskal was able to take a ride in a bright blue restored 1940 Stearman plane. It’s a plane that was used during WWII to train soldiers. Stejskal climbed into the cockpit with volunteer pilot Christopher Culp through a program with the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, or AADF.
“We travel throughout the country and give rides to these veterans and seniors,” Culp said.
Culp is from Oregon, and he flies veterans around for the foundation’s program, called Dream Flights.
“It seems to have a big impact on them,” he said. “I know it does. I can see it in their faces.”
Stejskal was one of four veterans and citizens from Plantation’s Covenant Village Senior Living Facility who went up in scheduled 20-minute flights.
Another was Dick Wells.
Wells, 93, trained as a bombardier in Miami Beach for WWII in 1945 and went on to be a 2nd lieutenant. He was the first of the day to fly with Culp.
He was certainly excited about it.
“Should I wear my new hat?” he asked, before switching his “WWII VET” baseball cap out for a Banyon Air one, courtesy of the airline welcoming the Covenant Village residents and the AADF.
Stejskal wasn’t nervous, but he was excited to tell his daughter afterwards.
“I just look forward to riding in an open cockpit,” Stejskal said.
This AADF volunteer crew left Fort Lauderdale to give more veterans rides in Boca Raton.