Sixty-five years after the last time he did it, Bill Reinman climbed into a PT-17 open-cockpit plane Friday morning.
"I've spent quite a few hours in one of these," Reinman said.
This time, he was taking a ride rather than flying it himself. Reinman was one of two residents of Dale Commons Assisted Living in Modesto treated to a ride in the vintage plane by Ageless Aviation Dreams, a nonprofit organization that is making a tour of California.
"Our motto is 'Giving back to those who have given,' " said co-founder Paul H. Bodenhamer. "We provide rides one more time in this Stearman aircraft, the primary training aircraft in World War II."
Roy Caylor, 82, was the other veteran treated to a ride Friday at the Modesto Airport.
Pilot Darryl Fisher helped him get into the cockpit, explaining the rules: The signal two thumbs up means "I'm having a good time" and two thumbs down means "I want to land."
In the year and a half he's been doing these flights, Fisher said, he's only once gotten the thumbs down; that was for a passenger who was having a great time but needed to make a bathroom stop.
Caylor's ride was a thumbs-up experience all the way.
"Hey," he told Dale Commons staff as the aircraft taxied back after landing, "we've gotta get one of these."
Caylor, who served on a regimental combat team in the Korean War, wore a "U.S. Army" T-shirt under his jacket.
He called the flight "wonderful. ... It was really amazing."
Caylor said he particularly enjoyed when the plane banked to the side. "I could see all the buildings and roads right off my shoulder."
Bodenhamer said Ageless Aviation Dreams has been a rewarding experience for him and Fisher, both of whom volunteer their time.
"It's pretty special," he said. Among the passengers they've taken up were a 102-year-old woman who complained only when the ride concluded and a former fighter pilot in Oregon who couldn't get out of his wheelchair.
"We had the local fire department come out," Bodenhamer said. "Four guys picked him out and put him in the plane. It was a real community effort."
The smiles on the faces of the passengers is more than enough reward.
Friday, Caylor became the newest bearer of one of those beaming smiles.
After he got out of the plane and settled back into the scooter he uses to get around, he said, "This seems a little slow after that."
Bee Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2343.