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Averett helps war veteran fly again

Star-Tribune - 5/8/2017

It's been years since World War II veteran Andy Waggoner has taken to the skies, and Averett University decided to do something about that in honor of his upcoming 97th birthday.

Last Thursday, Waggoner visited Averett's Aviation Center where he met Flight Instructor Stuart Crouch, who took him on a trip. Crouch flew Waggoner around Danville to show him the city.

"They did an outstanding job showing us the city and the surrounding area," Waggoner said. "I was impressed with the way he handled it."

Waggoner and Crouch were accompanied on the flight by his wife Ruth Waggoner, as well as Sis Hyler who is a friend of his family. Waggoner was a bomber pilot in during WWII, and he owned his own private plane until he was 80.

The flight for his birthday on Thursday was his first time in the air since he had to sell his plane.

"It's very relaxing if you enjoy flying," Waggoner said. "A lot people don't like to fly, but I love to fly."

The arrangement was made between Averett University and Hyler, who helps take care of Waggoner's family. She was able to get in contact with the university to allow Waggoner a chance to fly with a plane that's owned by Averett.

"My grandfather was a fighter pilot in World Way II so this is pretty special to me," Averett chief flight instructor Travis Williams said. "It's an honor and a privilege that we're able to get this gentleman on what may be the last time he gets to fly an airplane."

Williams said this was the first time that Averett's Aviation program has done something special like this.

"We were asked if we could take him for an airplane ride," Williams said. "We're lucky that we have the opportunity to be able to do this."

Williams said that the girlfriend of one of his flight instructors works at Tunstall with Waggoner's nephew. That was how the idea first came up. Williams also explained that as long as it's been since Waggoner has flown, he would probably see some changes in the controls of a modern airplane.

"He hasn't flown in awhile," Williams said. "I think he'll be amazed at the technology in aircraft today,"

Due to the sky being cloudy, the visibility was limited for airplanes on Thursday. As a result, Waggoner's flight only lasted for approximately 15 minutes before the plane flew back around and landed again. It was enough time for Crouch to show him the area though.

"I showed him different landmarks," Crouch said. "I asked him where he lived and we ended up finding the Stratford House. They got to see it from the sky and he told me they'd never been able to see Danville from the sky, it was really a cool opportunity."

Crouch said that Waggoner told him he had more than 10,000 hours of flying under his belt.

"I wish I had 10,000 hours," Crouch said. "It was a really good feeling, it's awesome because that guy fought for us, he's the reason why we're able to be here today. It was really just an awesome experience."


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