Some of Al Baer’s greatest adventures started with him hopping inside the cockpit of a plane and taking off into the skies above. Back in the ’60s, Baer was a captain in the United States Air Force, flying 35 missions in Vietnam. Back then he was flying a Douglas C-133 Cargomaster, the largest plane in the world at that time. His passion for flight continued as he became a pilot for Pan Am and United Airlines. This year, Baer will celebrate his 80th birthday by living out a dream of taking to the skies in a Boeing Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the 1940s.
“I’ve always had a love of flying,” said Baer. “I was lucky enough to become a pilot when I was younger. I’ve never gotten the chance to fly in an open cockpit plane like this before, and I’m very excited for the opportunity. I’m looking forward to sightseeing over the city.”
Bauer is one of eight Stoneridge Creek residents who’ll take the Ageless Aviation Dream Flight (AADF) on Sunday, April 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Livermore Airport, located at 4300 Greenville Road. Since 2011, the nonprofit organization has provided more than 3,000 dream flights in 41 states. The volunteer AADF crew travels the country year-round giving veterans the opportunity of a lifetime. “Our mission is to give back to those who’ve given,” said Darryl Fisher, founder and president of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. “We’re honoring the greatest generation by giving them an experience of a lifetime. Something special happens when they strap on that helmet, hear the raspy engine, and then feel the wind on their faces. By the time they land, they feel 20 years younger.”
Susan Filice, Stoneridge Creek’s life enrichment director, applied for the flight earlier this year. Once they were approved, the Pleasanton senior living community had to draw names to select the lucky participants. A total of 68 residents entered the drawing for eight available spots. Baer will be joined by other Stoneridge Creek residents and veterans, including Army Captain Tom Horton and Army First Lieutenant Eugene Heiman.
The entire Stoneridge Creek community has been invited to watch as the residents strap on headsets and leather helmets and take to the skies at 1,000 feet for a 20-minute flight. They’ve arranged for an all-day hangar party with family members to be in attendance for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“We have more than 90 World War II, Korean, Cold War and Vietnam veterans who call Stoneridge Creek home,” noted Filice. “This flight is a great way for us to give back to them for their service and sacrifices. We received application from residents of all different backgrounds. Some are WWII veterans, while others are residents who never served but were excited for the chance to take the flight. This will be a fantastic memory for all of us.”