Indiana man realizes dream of flying plane

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GAS CITY, Ind. (AP) — A former Navy man took to the sky to fulfill his bucket list.

Dave Earle, 71, of Gas City, said he has wanted to fly a plane since the mid-60s, but he never got around to it.

"When I was in the Navy I was in a submarine underneath the North Pole," he told the Chronicle-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1jKrhxc ). "When we came up, I looked through the scope and saw a plane. Ever since then I wanted to fly one."

Earle has been diagnosed with terminal throat cancer and has been a hospice patient with Family Life Care Hospice since February.

"In order to be a hospice patient with us you have to have six months or less to live," Family Life Care Hospice Social Service intern Hannah Schonewill said. "He requested to fly a plane so many times."

Schonewill contacted Marion Municipal Airport and learned about their Discovery Flight. The flight allows a person to co-pilot and fly through Grant County.

On Wednesday, Earle flew with a pilot and two of his friends, viewing Grant County landmarks and even his home.

Marion Municipal Airport pilot Andy Darlington said Earle and friends were in the air for 40 minutes. Usually the Discovery Flight cost $65 for 20 minutes, but this case was special.

"We waived the fee because it seemed like the right thing to do," Darlington said. "I'm glad that this was able to work out. It's my job to try and spread aviation. We want them to leave with a smile on their faces."

Since the fee was waived, Earle donated the $65 to Family Life Care Hospice's "Because We Care Fund," which helps make hospice patients' final wishes a reality.

"I just wanted to pay it forward," he said. "Somebody would want or need something that they can't afford."

Schonewill said she was happy to help Earle make his wish reality.

"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," she said. "It was his last wish. Even though our patients have terminal illnesses, they still deserve to be listened to."

Dave's wife, Martha, said she was nervous for her husband of 13 years to fly a plane and did not go on the plane ride.

"I about had a heart attack, but as long as he has a good attitude everything will be OK," she said.

Earle's friend David Olsen said he was happy to share the experience with his friend.

"I loved it," he said. "I will share this with my kids and grandkids. I just appreciate him asking me to come along."

Martha said Family Life Care Hospice has been a pleasure to work with.

"Hospice is the greatest thing that ever been invented," she said. "They show nothing but love and support — not just for the patient but the family too."

After the flight, Earle said he was complete.

"Flying felt like I completed a full circle of 50 years," he said. "The bucket list is complete. I can get along with the rest of my life."

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Information from: Chronicle-Tribune, http://www.chronicle-tribune.com

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