Dream Flights experience for 7 Arbor Terrace retired veterans

WEST KNOXVILLE — Seven veterans living at Arbor Terrace Knoxville assisted living facility had an opportunity to live out their dreams and take flight in a World War II airplane.

That experience, which happened Friday, June 7, was through Sports Clips-sponsored Dream Flights, an organization that flies veterans in a restored World War II Steadman two-seater bi-plane.

“I took two groups,” said Erin Parten, engagement director with Arbor Terrace Knoxville. “Four (in the morning), and then after lunch, three. That was our full day.

“I guess they go all over the country doing this,” said Owen Hughes, 82, one of the Arbor Terrace veterans participating in the flights. “They go place to place and give veterans (a ride).”

Honorably discharged as airman second class, Hughes served from 1960 to 1964 in the military police and security section of the Air Force and later served as a police officer in Manhattan, New York.

“We have been involved with Dream Flights for probably seven, eight years now with the Arbor company,” Parten said. “They flew over downtown Knoxville. They started at Island Home Airport … South Knoxville.

“They do a good job,” she added about the Dream Flights organization. “It’s usually a pilot and co-pilot. “We provide lunch and beverages.”

Parten noted Dream Flights was founded by the man who founded Sports Clips.

“That was wonderful,” said Mary Ann Scott, 85, who served 15 years in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, as a dietician. “It was my first time in a plane. I thought it was a good day. I was just ready to fly the plane.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing to do,” she added.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when they put (Scott) up in that aircraft,” Hughes said.

“It was interesting; it was exciting,” he added about his own experience in the Dream Flight airplane. “I’ve flown in all kinds of aircraft, but I’ve never been in an open (cockpit) kind-of plane. It’s like a Model T in terms of aircraft.

“We did a few routes around Knoxville, over the hospital, the college (University of Tennessee). We were seated, strapped in, but otherwise you’re open air. (The pilots) would do these zig-zag things just to get your attention.”

While he was flying in the plane, “I was thinking about the Wright brothers,” Hughes said.

“I read once that the Wright brothers died young because they had crashed so many times,” he added. “Both of them had multiple broken bones. It’s amazing the difference in technology between then and now.”

“We had a big time,” said James “Jim” Denton, 87, who served eight years in the U.S. Army, honorably discharged as private first class. “It was just amazing. It was enjoyable.

“First, I found out (the plane) was built in 1946,” he added. “You had two people get in (the plane). They walked us around. We got up on the wing … and we climbed in a window.

Giving more detail, “They had us all belted in,” Denton said. “It was unreal what all they went through, but they knew what they were doing. They put a helmet on you (with) ear muffs. We talked to the pilot and he could talk to us.”

For Don Godwin, 94, who served four years in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant, this was his first time in a two-seater plane.

“I thought it was much bigger than the first plane I rode in, which was a single-engine plane,” he said, adding the Dream Flight aircraft was “a much stronger plane.

“It was a great trip, after we got back on the ground,” Godwin added. “The wind came up.”

“The flight was great,” said Ben Nine, who served from 1951 to 1954 in the U.S. Naval Air Force, honorably discharged as a crewman and flight crew engineer.

While he flew a lot during his service, Nine said he really enjoyed flying again.

“It’s big fun,” he added. “I was very comfortable because I had flown so much already.”

“It makes a lot of memories come back,” said Joseph M. Beuerlein, 85, who served four years in the Air Force, honorably discharged as an airman first class.

While flying, he remembered “just looking down and hoping we stayed up.”

This was his first time in a cockpit. Before that, “I was just a passenger,” he said.

“It was little,” said Thomas “Tom” Shoemaker, 72 — who served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force/Air National Guard, retiring as a tech sergeant — about the Dream Flight aircraft. “... It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a prop plane.”

Shoemaker, who served from 1970 to 1992, was stationed in Taiwan and flew supplies in Vietnam.

When returning to the United States, he remained in the Air National Guard.