Off we went to the Red Oak Airport to keep Ernie’s dream alive! On his birthday, he was getting back in a plane.
Norm Yeager, Ernie's friend and pilot instructor, assisted Ernie with his life time dream, to keep flying. Ernie used his walker to get to the plane and climb inside. From there, Mr. Yeager watched while Ernie started the plane, taxied out, took off and flew around the pattern before retiring after a flawless landing.
“Three miles west of the field, ceilings dropped to the ground,” said Smith. “I went around the pattern at 400 feet, but as I turned to the left to get in there, I had to dive as the clouds went all the way to the ground.”
For Ernie's flight on his 101st birthday, it was not merely a joyride for him. He piloted the aircraft the whole time. He smiled and talked the entire flight! “The excitement on his face was priceless," Mr. Yeager stated.
“He taxied out on the pre-takeoff check, took off, stayed in the traffic pattern and landed. [He] taxied in and shut down,” said Mr. Yeager. Mr. Yeager himself is in his 80s. He is recognized as an outstanding instructor pilot and has helped Ernie for years. They are great friends.
Ernie still goes out to fly with someone just about every week. And on his birthday, even though the flight was short, he wanted it to be a good one. “Suppose this is my last flight, I’m going to try to make it a good one,” said Ernie, as we drive to the airport.
Later in the day, Ernie’s friends from all over gathered at the airport to honor him on his birthday. “I got a bunch of cupcakes yesterday from a lady and they all had 101 on them,” Ernie stated.
One of the sayings he is known for is, “If you like something, “Just Do It!” Ernie states this quite often.