A Bakersfield resident and WWII veteran flew on a restored WWII-era biplane through Dream Flights.
Operation September Freedom is the last mission this year by non-profit Dream Flights. The organization has been taking WWII veterans for rides on WWII-era Stearman biplanes to honor them and their service. After the flights, the veterans sign the rudder. Following the last flight, all the rudders will be collected and framed, which volunteer pilot Molly Littlefield with Dream Flights says will be the largest collection of WWII veteran signatures in the world. Littlefield says they hope to get 1,000 veterans in the air for this life-changing experience.
On Thursday at Meadows Field Airport, 100-year-old Ron Holdsworth got the opportunity to fly in a Stearman biplane similar to the ones he flew during his service with the RAF. Holdsworth was an airplane mechanic as well as serving as a rear-gunner. He flew in Germany and France during the war with his 158 Squadron totaling 32 missions in Europe. His time has a mechanic was spent mostly in Africa including Kenya, Rhodesia (now modern-day Zimbabwe), and Egypt. On Christmas Eve 1944, Holdsworth’s plane “Zombie” was hit by the Germans which caused oxygen tanks to explode blowing a hole in the side of the plane. “At the time I thought I was going to be a guest of Adolf’s [Hitler] for Christmas”, Holdsworth recalled. He says despite the damage, they were able to complete their bombing of the target and make a safe emergency landing at their airfield.
After the war, Holdsworth moved to Bakersfield in 1954. Now a resident at Brookdale Senior Living, he had been booked to fly with Dream Flights last year but the pandemic forced a reschedule. Holdsworth says he wanted to fly in a single-engine biplane again and that’s why he applied. After the flight, he remarked it was different sitting in the front of the plane instead of the tail end. When asked if he would recommend other veterans to apply for Dream Flights, he said,”I’d go for it. Yeah”.