87-year-old soars into the wild blue yonder
by Jennifer Cohron
Apr 01, 2011 | 2959 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Loyd Latham receives his final instructions from pilot Darryl Fisher before taking off in a 1943 Boeing Stearman on Wednesday. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
Loyd Latham receives his final instructions from pilot Darryl Fisher before taking off in a 1943 Boeing Stearman on Wednesday. Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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Wednesday’s wet weather almost grounded a special flight for one local man.

Loyd Latham, an 87-year-old resident at The Terrace in Jasper, was scheduled to go up in a 1943 Boeing Stearman Wednesday morning.

The plane is owned by Bill Fisher and piloted by his son, Darryl. It is the same kind of aircraft that Latham, an Air Force veteran, and many other young soldiers trained in while preparing to serve in World War II.

Bill Fisher acquired the open cockpit biplane 29 years ago but only recently had it restored by a man in Cleveland, Miss.

After picking up the plane earlier this week, the Fishers set out to fulfill their longtime dream of barnstorming the country together.

Darryl Fisher, a former owner of The Terrace, has planned to make some extra stops as they wing their way back home to Oregon this summer.

“I thought that as long as we were going to be flying, we could stop in to a few communities along the way and take folks like Mr. Latham for a ride,” he said.

Terrace administrator Anita Williams said she was thrilled and honored when Fisher called to make arrangements for the flight.

Latham, one of her sweetest and most mischievous residents, happened to overhear the phone conversation.

“I turned around and asked, ‘Do you like to fly?’ He said, ‘I love to fly!’ I said, ‘Would you like to fly again?’ He said, ‘I’d love to fly again!’ This was before he knew what kind of plane it was,” Williams said, laughing.

Latham’s son, Danny, said that he was curious at first about what organization was sponsoring the trip and why they wanted to take his father up in an airplane.

However, once he learned more about the Fishers and their motto — giving back to those who have given — he agreed to the flight.

Latham was a radar operator during World War II. He often volunteered for jobs that would allow him to see as much of the world as possible.

After the war, he worked at Son’s in Jasper for 35 years.

When his son was young, Latham enjoyed taking him on short adventures. Often, they ended up at the local airport.

Latham’s wife came home once and asked Danny what he had done that day. He responded, “I went airplane riding.”

“She said, ‘I’m going to have to quit letting y’all two get out together. You’re going to get him killed,” Latham said.

Latham moved to The Terrace after his wife passed away.

He has become infamous and beloved for good-natured pranks, such as hiding supplies from housekeeping when he comes across an unattended cart in the hallway.

Latham was ready to go at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, but rain pushed back his flight time to 2 p.m.

He never uttered a word of complaint about the delay, which his son said is typical for his father.

“He makes the best of whatever situation it is,” Danny Latham said.

When the skies cleared, Loyd Latham and his son and granddaughter, Amy, were driven to the Walker County Airport.

As Latham was preparing for take-off, Williams reminded him to stay seated and keep his arms and legs in the plane at all times.

Fisher showed him the red “ejection” button, which actually allowed the two to communicate through their headsets while in the air.

When Latham got back on the ground, the first words his family and friends heard from him were “I think I landed it pretty good.”

The Fishers are documenting their journey on their website, www.agelessaviationdreams.com, as well as through Facebook and Twitter.