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97-year-old Air Force veteran gets back in the cockpit

Giving veterans the chance to fly again. The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation was at the Capital City Airport.

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Chelsea Koerbler
HARRISBURG, PA — Giving veterans the chance to fly again. The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation was at the Capital City Airport.

One-by-one veterans and military spouses hopped in a Boeing Stearman for a quick flight around the area from the airport.

"It's a way for me to give back to the veterans that have given to us," said Capt. Christopher Culp, Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation volunteer pilot.

About a year ago, Messiah Village applied to Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. The organization gives flights to veterans in long-term care facilities, honoring the sacrifices they made decades ago.

Holly Zweiacher, an activities programer at Messiah Village, was inspired by the stories she heard from the residents, one man in particular.

"He invited me into his room, and showed me a picture on his wall that was an artist's rendition of him flying a bomber plane with other planes surrounding him in World War II," said Zweiacher.

That man is 97-year-old Air Force Veteran Major Hank Heim.

"I'm one heck of a lot years older now," said Heim. "This seems just little more difficult, getting my legs where they should be. I was all over the place."

Heim was 22-years-old when he joined the Air Force, serving for 14 years. During his time as a pilot, he flew 78 flights in World War II on a B17 and 51 flights in the Korean War on a B29. His first solo flight in the Air Force, was also in a Boeing Stearman. He says being up in the air made him realize a few things.

"My fighting days are done," said Heim. "I'm too old."

The experience is one Heim won't forget. The same is true for Zweiacher, who watched as the man who inspired her to make this day possible stepped into the same kind of plane he did nearly seven decades ago.

"Just to see Hank get into the plane again, move that quickly, and the smile that moved across his face," said Zweiacher. "It's just something I'll keep with me for forever."

Since the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation was founded in 2011, they've been able to provide 3,200 dream flights for veterans all across the U.S.

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