Navy veteran Kenneth Schrammeck smiled as he settled into the front seat on a Boeing Stearman Model 75 biplane. He was just outside Glacier International Airport’s Jet Center.
At 98 1/2 years of age, the ex-Navy aviator had no idea that he would take to the skies in the exact same plane he had been trained in during World War II. Schrammeck smiled even more when he returned to the ground with his family after his 10-minute flight.
He stated, “It felt strange to be in front this time around, however, it was very fun, very fun.” “It was fun but not as enjoyable as my solo flight a few years back. When the front seat is empty and you’re doing solo flights, that is the best thrill. It was then that flying truly became an exciting experience.
Schrammeck’s, and two others in Kalispell, on Thursday, were made possible through Dream Flights and Operation September Freedom. They offer free flights in their fleet of Boeing-Stearman Model 75 biplanes up to the end September in honor of the 80th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor’s attack and the 76th Anniversary of the Japanese surrender.
Clint Cawley of Dream Flights, who grew up in WWII, stated that the nation and society cannot repay the debt they owe to those generations that gave us the freedoms and liberty we enjoy today. “They are such humble and generous people, and I am trying to do my best to make every day special for them.” I am grateful for the sacrifices they made and every day that they have given me is special.”
Cawley, who was the pilot in Kalispell for Thursday’s flights, stated that he was humbled to be able to bring joy and happiness to America’s WWII vets by giving them flights on such an iconic plane.
Stearman was the first aircraft used by all pilots during World War II. All pilots flew a Stearman regardless of whether they were going on to fly a fighter or bomber. Cawley explained that all military pilots started out with a Stearman.
Dream Flights claims that of the 16,000,000 Americans who served during WWII, only about 100,000 are alive today. The youngest one is 95.
According to the website, “So in 2021 we’re dedicating all of our Dream Flight Tours to WWII veterans.” “Our mission it to honor as many people as possible and to thank them for fighting for freedom.
Schrammeck claimed that the flight took him back in time to his training days at an Arkansas teachers college. He called it the “Yellow Peril”, which he and fellow naval aviator trainees referred to as because of the biplane’s bright yellow paint scheme.
Schrammeck claimed he enjoyed his training, even getting in trouble a few times.
He stated, “One thing I recall clearly, which was against all the rules was flying in clouds.” “They didn’t like it when that was done with the trainers.”
Schrammeck completed his flight instruction, but just as he thought that he would be going off to combat, he received an official letter from the War Department.
“They sent us a letter at the end to inform us that their losses had been much less than they expected and that my class was being dissolved. “Just like that,” he stated. “They told us that we could become noncombatant, but not pilots.
Schrammeck refused to give up and took a discharge form the Navy. He then looked for another way of joining the war effort.
“Some wise men told me the Army was enrolling pilots but they were wrong,” said he. “It was the exact same story as with the Navy.”
Arnold Peterson was a Navy veteran who flew the first flight on Thursday. He saw combat in the Pacific Theater as chief electronics technician for the destroyer USS Healy. He then rose to the rank chief petty officers.
Peterson and the USS Healy fought in the Marshall Islands (Saipan), Guam and other locations, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
The Healy, as the harbor control vessel, led the battleship USS Missouri into Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 for the Japanese formal surrender.
Peterson flew his biplane for the first time on Thursday nearly 75 years ago.
He stated that he had been looking for bumps to bump into, but he didn’t see any. “I enjoyed the view of the valley below. Although it was difficult for me to believe that I was flying again in my twenties, I found it very enjoyable.