91 year-old Charlie G. of Brookdale Freedom Village is one of those guys that knows everyone and is loved by everyone. Charlie isn’t just a part of his community, he is the heart & soul of Brookdale Freedom Village. Charlie’s Wish of a Lifetime was to finally get the chance to fly in a P-51 Mustang for the first time.
Charlie joined the Army Air Corps in 1944 with hopes of becoming a P-51 fighter pilot. Charlie said flying a P-51 was the dream of just about everyone entering the Army Air Corps. Charlie wound up spending two years in the Air Corps but was never assigned a pilot class, even though he was qualified. This wasn’t the end of Charlie’s military career. It was basically just the beginning. After a stint in the Army Reserves, Charlie re-enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 and served until 1955. He was stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base where he was trained as an F-89 pilot and then was sent off to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska where he joined the Fighter Intercept Squadron. After Charlie was discharged in 1955, he enlisted in the Air Force Reserves. All in all, Charlie spent 38 years with the Air Force and achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Charlie also made flying his career. He spent 31 years with Republic Airlines (29 of which he was a captain.) Between his military career and his professional career, Charlie spent 26,400 hours in the air. So when Charlie tells people that he has spent 88 years on this earth, it is entirely accurate, because he has spent over 3 years in the sky.
Charlie has always been in service to others throughout his life. In addition to his military career, Charlie has also spent time volunteering with: The Rotary Club, the Officer’s Club, Manasota Community Vets Council, Bradenton Beach Council, as well as his many positions at Brookdale Freedom Village (Chairman of the Library Council, Resident Ambassador and Military Flight Crew Chair).
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale were excited to send Charlie out to Kissimee, FL on May 16th to fly in a P-51 for the first time. There was, however, nobody nearly as excited as Charlie who says he is still trying to come off of the high he got from flying in a P-51. The plane had duel controls and once they hit 1000 feet of altitude, Charlie, who hadn’t piloted a plane since 1986, was back in the zone. Barrel roles, loops, Cuban 8’s….Charlie did it all. Charlie said, “I thought my reactions would be slow, but they were right there. The first time I was upside down on a barrel role it was just like back in the day. Just having the airplane in the control of my hands again was amazing. It was so exciting that at age 91, I could still fly an airplane like that. Just the idea that I could do something like this again, I never could have imagined. I feel like a kid again.”
It was an experience of a lifetime for Charlie, and quite an experience for the 16 friends he brought from Brookdale Freedom Village to root him on!
Photos courtesy of Linda Stansberry Photography