By Bruce Troxell, AADF volunteer

Ageless Aviation Dream Flights Salutes Ageless Aviator

We know that Ageless Aviation Dream Flights buoy the spirits of veterans and seniors who may not have spent a great deal of time soaring through the clouds, but what about those who were actively engaged in aviation ventures in their younger days? Would taking a ride in a World War II open-cockpit Stearman biplane also lift their spirits, or would they be somehow disappointed if the Stearman’s performance couldn’t match the excitement of their previous flying experience?

The experience of Ageless Aviation Dream Flights with Col. Gerhard “Gerry” Schriever (pronounced “Schreever”) gives us the answer—Col. Schriever’s 29-year career as an Air Force test pilot accumulating about 8,000 flight hours flying “almost everything”, including breaking the sound barrier in a T-38 Talon piloted by the first man to break the sound barrier Chuck Yeager, did not diminish the enjoyment of his Stearman Dream Flights one iota. Although he began flying in 1928 at age 15 and entered the Army Air Corps flight school in 1939, the 103-year-old told KSAT news after his 2016 Dream Flight, “It’s natural. It feels good, like (it did when) I started,” adding, “I’ve always loved flying, and I was lucky to have a career that did a lot of flying.”

Col. Schriever soloed in a Stearman many years ago and has over 100 flying hours in this type of aircraft. In fact, directed by AADF volunteer pilot Mike Sommars, Col. Schriever took over the controls and flew the Stearman with aplomb for a short period of time. There is an old saying in aviation that, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” Following his Dream Flight, Col. Schriever laughingly told Mike Sommars, “Put me down as an old, bold pilot—that’s good for my confidence.”

Four-year-old Gerry Schriever came to the U.S. from Germany in 1917 along with his parents and 6-year-old brother Bernard, settling in Texas. Both Gerry and Bernard had successful Air Force careers—Gerry attained the rank of Colonel and, after many years as a test pilot, became commanding officer of Edwards Air Force Base, home of the Air Force Test Center and the Air Force Test Pilot’s School, while Bernard reached the rank of General and was universally regarded as the “father” of the Air Force’s ballistic missile and space program.

 

Following his retirement in 1967, Col. Schriever and his family returned to San Antonio, Texas, maintaining an active lifestyle travelling, playing golf, and finishing his degree in American Studies. He and his wife remained very active in the military community. His curiosity never waned and his children taught him how to use a computer, expanding his ability to find answers to questions raised by his ever-inquisitive mind.

Col. Schriever passed away in 2016 at the age of 103. His daughter, Zada True-Courage, believes that the Dream Flights in 2015 and 2016 did wonders to keep her father active near the end of his life. Says Zada, “We were a very lucky family in that my Dad was with it and ambulatory to the very end and I think those flights helped him stick around a little bit longer.”

When asked to describe her father’s demeanor after the Dream Flights, she said, “My Dad was ‘giddy’. He loved flying and it really made him happy and gave him a thrill. I could see a spring in his step after those flights. I am so thankful to Ageless Aviation for the gift given to my Dad through these flights.”

AADF salutes Col. Gerhard Schriever not only for being “An old, bold pilot”, but also for being an inspiration to us all. His love of flying was truly timeless.

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