Wish Stories

Heinz Takes the Flight of a Lifetime

Is there something you love so much that you can’t stop thinking about it? Perhaps a hobby, interest, or activity that sometimes even sneaks into your dreams?

For Heinz, that thing is airplanes. And today, at age 88, he’s just as equally enthralled with aviation as when he was a little boy.

Heinz would be the first to admit his obsession with airplanes. Even his room is covered with all things aviation, and he can’t get enough! Growing up in East Germany in the late 1930s, he witnessed many planes overhead and dreamed of becoming a pilot someday.

But, growing up during World War II presented many obstacles that eventually stood in the way of that dream. Heinz and his family were forced to flee their home and travel to western Germany to seek safety. Heinz spent his 12th birthday in a refugee camp in Bavaria. Although they were safe, it was a very challenging experience for him as a boy.

After the war ended, the demilitarization of Germany meant that there was no opportunity to join the Air Force to become a pilot, as Heinz had hoped. By the time the German Air Force was reinstated, Heinz was past the age requirement to enlist.

Heinz stands in front of Cessna airplane before his ride
Heinz and his son hold hands and smile broadly after their airplane ride
Heinz sitting inside Cessna airplane before takeoff

Heinz lived in Germany until the late 1950s when he and his wife moved to England. He found work as a nurse in a mental health facility, and also spent time helping German citizens who had immigrated to England during the war. He soon became involved with the German Seaman’s Mission, which provided spiritual and physical care for sailors and seafarers of all walks of life.

While it was not the career he had dreamed about as a boy, it was a role he found great meaning in. Taking care of others gave him purpose. Eventually, Heinz became the chaplain of the Mission in South Shields, England.

In 1970, Heinz and his family had an opportunity to make a big change. Together, they packed up their life and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to New Orleans, Louisiana. Heinz became the local Seaman’s Mission minister in his new home until his retirement.

There are many ways to keep a dream alive. While Heinz might not have been able to become a pilot, his passion never faded. He kept his love of aviation alive, learning what he could about airplanes in his free time and taking every opportunity to see them in action.

Now, it’s something that he and his son Gunar enjoy together. One of the highlights of their year is attending the annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh airshow. With their eyes glued upward, it’s always a day full of speed and excitement. Gunar has even downloaded an app on his phone that helps them identify different types of airplanes together.

Heinz and Gunar stand in front of Cessna airplane and smile
Heinz stands with his pilot in front of the airplane

When Wish of a Lifetime heard Heinz’s story, we were proud to help him celebrate his lifelong passion with a memorable experience. And what better way than with a flight in a private plane?

With the help of EAA chapters across Colorado, Heinz and his son were treated to a private flight in a Cessna 182P Skylane. Soaring across a bluebird sky, Heinz felt like a life-long dream was coming true.

After their flight, the two could not stop smiling. Looking back on their experience, the father and son duo shared how it exceeded their expectations.

“Our pilot provided us with a wonderful flight experience,” Gunar said. “He made sure that we were well-informed, comfortable, and safe throughout our flight. This was a real treat for us.”

Gunar remarked that his father stayed in the clouds even after they landed: “He was still on cloud nine for days afterward!”

And for Heinz, it was truly the flight of a lifetime. “I will never forget this,” he said.

Colleen and her daughter laugh as they walk together along the ocean

One incredible story at a time, Wish of a Lifetime is changing the perception of aging—not just how we view our oldest citizens but also how we see and value ourselves as we age.

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