Life Stories

95-Year-Old Woman Flies In Her Late Husband’s World War II-Era Plane: ‘I Had No Fear’

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A 95-year-old woman’s dream of flying an 80-year-old airplane has come true.

Jean Hiner was married to Jim, a World War II pilot.

“His head was in the air most of the time [laughs], I would say!” Jean laughed with WCCO.

Jim flew 25 missions during the war. He learned to fly with a PT-19 trainer plane. After the war was through, Jim and a friend decided to go in together on buying the same kind of plane and restoring it.

Jean made her own contribution to restoring the plane. She stitched fabric on the wings, a very time-consuming task. Although she chipped in, she never got to ride in the plane herself. Life got in the way of their plans, and Jim’s partner one day bought him out.

“Dad was willing to share his stories,” Kirk Hiner said of his dad. The last Kirk knew of the plane flying was on September 20, 1990.

Jim died on September 21, 2017. A year later, Kirk got a call that his father’s plane was damaged in a tornado. The owner asked Kirk if his family wanted the plane back to restore it, yet again.

“I figured that would be a great thing to do. Very interesting, fun thing,” Kirk said.

Kirk enjoyed the memories of his father that came to life as he worked on the plane. When he knew it could fly again, he knew just who should be the first passenger.

“I had friends say, ‘Oh, I’d be afraid to do it.’ It was solid. I had no fear,” Jean said.

Jean knew it would make Jim happy to see she finally got her flight. “I know he’s looking down, grinning, very happy,” Kirk said.

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