Kennesaw company helps 97-year-old live out her dream to fly again
August 30, 2013 12:33 AM | 2858 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Vilma Hofer of Roswell gets a helping hand from her son Hugh, left, and Bi-Plane Adventures Inc. owner and pilot Lee Kluger of Kennesaw as she boards a biplane Thursday at McCollum Field. Hofer, 97, had the wish to ride in an open cockpit  biplane one more time. <br> Staff/Kelly J. Huff
Vilma Hofer of Roswell gets a helping hand from her son Hugh, left, and Bi-Plane Adventures Inc. owner and pilot Lee Kluger of Kennesaw as she boards a biplane Thursday at McCollum Field. Hofer, 97, had the wish to ride in an open cockpit biplane one more time.
Staff/Kelly J. Huff
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Vilma Hofer still has her pilot’s licenses issued to her from her home country of Slovakia, then known as Czechoslovakia.
Vilma Hofer still has her pilot’s licenses issued to her from her home country of Slovakia, then known as Czechoslovakia.
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Just like old times. This daring geriatric is steady as she can be as she heads off into the wild, blue yonder one more time.
Just like old times. This daring geriatric is steady as she can be as she heads off into the wild, blue yonder one more time.
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Hofer, 97, had the wish to ride in an open cockpit  biplane one more time. She was the first woman in her home country of Slovakia, then known as Czechoslovakia, to become a certified pilot before World War II. Thanks to Kennesaw-based Bi-Plane Adventures Inc., Brookdale Senior Living and the Wish of a Lifetime, her wish became a soaring reality.
Hofer, 97, had the wish to ride in an open cockpit biplane one more time. She was the first woman in her home country of Slovakia, then known as Czechoslovakia, to become a certified pilot before World War II. Thanks to Kennesaw-based Bi-Plane Adventures Inc., Brookdale Senior Living and the Wish of a Lifetime, her wish became a soaring reality.
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KENNESAW — Vilma Hofer was the first woman pilot licensed to fly solo in Czechoslovakia more than 70 years ago, and her love of flying has never wavered.

Thanks to a Kennesaw company in the business of making dreams come true, she was able to take to the air again Thursday at age 97, flying over the skies of Cobb County in a vintage open-cockpit bi-plane built in 1940.

Hofer, a resident of the Freedom Pointe assisted living community in Roswell, took off from McCollum Field Airport near Cobb Parkway in Kennesaw with her son, Hugh Hofer, and pilot Lee Kluger.

Kluger, who owns Bi-Plane Adventures in Kennesaw, said it was an honor to give Hofer the freeing sensation of flying in an open cockpit again.

“You can just feel it,” Kluger said about sitting in the World War II-era biplane.

Kluger said he was worried about hoisting Hofer into the plane, but that challenge was easier than expected.

By the end of the 30-minute flight, Kluger said Hofer told him he gave her a moment of her life back — a beautiful moment.

Susan Patterson with Freedom Pointe Roswell said Hofer suffers from dementia and, except for the vivid memories of her time as a pilot, she has been very sullen recently.

“But today she smiled the entire time, it was just beautiful,” Patterson said.

Patterson said she gets chills talking about helping the Hofer family have an intimate, happy moment together.

A wish come true

The flight was originally scheduled for earlier this month, but the constant rain had kept Hofer’s dream grounded.

The trip was funded by Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that grants wishes for senior citizens to fulfill lifelong dreams. In 2012, Wish of a Lifetime granted 263 wishes.

A group of at least five Freedom Pointe Roswell residents came to the airport Thursday morning to support Hofer and watch her live out her dream.

The day before, Patterson said Hofer’s only concern was if Kluger was a good pilot.

“He passed the test,” Patterson said.

Bi-Plane Adventures offers trips in vintage planes, such as the orange WACO UPF-7 military training plane that flew Hofer and her son.

Prices range from $165 for a single-passenger 20-minute trip to $389 for an hour-long, two-passenger trip.

Kluger said the flights typically travel 75 mph and travel within 25 miles of the airport, which includes downtown Atlanta and the foothills of north Georgia.

Besides the pilot, the biplane fits two passengers, making it a perfect location for wedding proposals. Kluger said there were three proposals in flights this week.

Kluger started flying at the age of 15. Sharing the love of flying is the best part of his business, Kluger said.

“What is really cool is taking people up on a flight where this is a lifelong dream of theirs,” he said.

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