Bob Schultz, a 99-and-a-half-year-old World War II veteran from Belleville, Illinois, was able to fulfill a life-long dream on September 6 when he took off from St. Louis Downtown Airport for a flight in a restored 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane. While he regularly saw planes being launched from the USS California during his time in the Marines, Shultz never got to fly one himself until that morning, when family members including his wife and grandchildren, friends, fellow veterans, supporters and members of the local media gathered to cheer him on. After commencing lift-off with his pilot, Schultz got to fly around the skies over the airport, enjoying the views of the nearby Gateway Arch, Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis for approximately 20 minutes.
Schultz’s special flight was made possible thanks to the Operation September Freedom event hosted by Dream Flights, an organization that aims to honor veterans with flights in fully restored planes. According to Dream Flights, the goal of the operation was to honor as many WWII veterans as possible over the course of 61 days. Described as the largest barnstorming show in U.S. history, and the only Dream Flight Tour of its kind to honor WWII veterans, Operation September Freedom gave Dream Flights to nearly 1,000 WWII veterans, including Schultz. To date, the organization has made more than 5,000 Dream Flights possible for veterans in more than 300 cities.