When Tampa-based pilot Ken Hewes heard that a Vietnam veteran and former flight engineer from Fort White had a wish to fly one more time as he battles cancer, Hewes prepped his plane and flew right to McAlpin to grant that wish.
Over the weekend, Victoria Farrar of Fort White posted on a local Facebook group that her father-in-law Mike Farrar has terminal cancer and a dying wish to fly again.
“My father in law is a 78-year-old Combat Air Force Veteran who has terminal cancer,” she wrote. “He has lost 100 lbs and is losing his battle with cancer. He is not only an Air Force Veteran, but was also a pilot. He used to fly his wife of 58 years, and children to the Bahamas and his wife on romantic getaways. Unfortunately those days are far behind him, and before he passes we would like to give him one last look at the world from the sky above.”
Within 24 hours, Hewes was tagged on the post and he said it was a no-brainer to help out.
“I dropped what I was doing,” Hewes said. He called his friend to help him get the plane ready and make the trip north.
Hewes was excited for Mike to see his 1947 North American Navion, an aircraft designed by the makers of the P-51 Mustang famously used in World War II. The plane was designed to be sold to military personnel and civilians and has the paint scheme of the military planes used in the Korean War. Its previous owner was also a Navy pilot.
Hewes made the one-hour flight from Tampa Executive Airport and landed in Scott Bell’s airfield in McAlpin on Sunday.
“We got up to 2,000 feet and I turned over the controls,” Hewes said.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Hewes said. “Pilots understand each other and the sky is our home. When I turned him loose, his whole face changed.”
Hewes said he texted photos to Victoria while still in flight and she commented that she hadn’t seen his face that happy in a long time.
During the flight, Mike told Hewes that he never thought he’d get the chance to be in the air again.
“We flew for 45 minutes and Mike kept us close to the airport within four miles the whole time,” Hewes said.
He even turned on the smoke machine so Mike could show off a little by sending out streams.
After the flight, Victoria announced what a success it had been and how grateful she was to the community for helping out her father-in-law.
“What a wonderful day!” she posted. “I cannot thank this group enough for all the recommendations, and all the people offering to help make a final wish come true for my father-in-law! We are so grateful to live in such a small close knit community where people come together for each other.”
She said Scott Bell provided the landing strip and a place for her to relax while Mike took his flight.
“I don’t know how much longer my father-in-law has on this earth, we know it’s down to a few months, but I know he will remember this until his last breath,” she wrote. “I have not seen him so alive and so alert in the last few months, but today when he was soaring again, he looked like he did 20 years ago.”