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Almost 100 years old, pilot takes off in a 94-year-old plane


It was a kind of “Come, Josephine, in my flying machine” moment with the promise of going “up. up a little bit higher.”

But it was not Josephine. Instead it was 96-year-old George Coulter in the front seat of a 94-year-old airplane, winging his way above the rolling hills and enjoying kaleidoscopic-like views of autumn in Upper Bucks.

It was a moment reminiscent of the Golden Age of Aviation, a magical time when pilots and passengers cherished the wind.

“This is really the dream of a lifetime,” said Coulter as he donned a Red Baron-type helmet and goggles — no scarf, though —and climbed into the open cockpit of a white 1928 Travel Air Biplane at Van Sant Airport in Tinicum Township.

Coulter, a retired excavator whose hometown is New Britain, is now a resident at Wesley Enhanced Living in Doylestown. Karen Doler, Wesley’s life services manager, arranged for the flight through the seniors WEL wishes program,

Coulter, tall and fit, whose looks belie his age, is an extremely active senior. “He’s amazing. He’s always busy,” said Doler. “This is a perfect day for his flight — an especially beautiful time of year,” she said,

Before the flight, Coulter who said he had taken flying lessons in his 80s, had hoped to take over the controls himself. Instead, Bar Eisenhauer, who owns and restored the vintage biplane, piloted the 30-minute excursion. Eisenhauer and his wife, Dannie, own the historic airfield, one of the last grass strips on the East Coast.

Taylor Fedena, who manages digital marketing for Wesley, accompanied Coulter in the front seat. When they landed, Coulter’s smile could not have been broader. “It was great,” he said. “We saw so much—the trees, the river. It really was my dream come true.”

Coulter’s daughter, Nancy Penrose, who lives in Allentown, drove down to watch and photograph her father’s great adventure. She said she was so pleased the Wesley Enhanced Living program had arranged the outing. “This was just wonderful,” she said. “The entire Lehigh Valley does not have a single place like Wesley.”

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