World War II veteran celebrates 97th birthday with Danville flight

Published: Apr. 28, 2017 at 1:30 AM EDT
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Andy Waggoner was surprised by all of the attention when he arrived at the Danville airport Thursday afternoon.

For a veteran pilot who has flown most of his life, a trip over the city was no big deal. But it was a big deal for the friends and the flight school that made it happen

Waggoner is a World War II veteran, a Navy bomber pilot who flew his own Cessna as a civilian. In honor of his 97th birthday next month, he took flight in a Piper Archer.

Waggoner and his wife, Ruth, climbed into the four-seater that Averett University uses for its growing Aviation program.

Flight instructor Stuart Crouch was behind the controls. And he said it was an honor.

"You don't get to take 96-year-old men up, and you don't get to take a World War II veteran, a World War II bomber," Crouch said. "He's had years and years of experience. He has so much more experience than I do, But I finally get to give back to him where he's not been able to do it, not able to do it now."

Waggoner didn't have to wait long. With one small plane ahead of them, they taxied to the end of the runway. They took off and took in the view during a flight over the city.

And when they returned, Waggoner declared it a success, complimenting his pilot and telling a group of reporters about his lengthy love affair with flying.

"I started flying when I was a junior in college and I've been flying ever since," Waggoner said. "To me it's a very relaxing moment, if you enjoy flying. Lots of people don't like to fly, but I love to fly."

Waggoner's birthday isn't until May, and staffers at the Averett University Aviation Program say they hope he'll fly with them again.