98-year-old WWII vet pilots plane once again

Robert Begley, a WWII pilot, flew again for the first time in 25 years on Friday. (WFSB)

A 98-year-old World War II veteran once again took the the skies to pilot a plane on Friday.

It was something that's been on Robert Begley's bucket list for quite some time.

Robert Begley had not flown in 25 years; however, he said Friday's flight fit like a glove.

He said he's had a love for aviation since he was in his 20s.

“Took the controls a little bit," Robert Begley said. "Little bigger airplane than I’m used too but a lot of fun. A lot of fun.”

Robert Begley was born and raised in New Britain. His passion translated into his career.

When WWII came about, he was a member of the first American volunteer group of the Chinese Air Force, nicknamed the Flying Tigers.

“[In] WWII, he was in China, Burma," said Bob Begley, Robert's son. "He was a weapons specialist loading the P40s and P51s when we were fighting the Japanese early in the war.”

Robert Begley and his three brothers made it back from war and he raised five children in Windsor; but, he never touched down for too long.

“He took us all up for flights and took neighborhood kids all up for flights so basically out of Brainard field, although he sold and learned how to fly out of Simsbury, ironically," Bob Begley said.

Robert Begley was a private pilot and served in the Air National Guard for 39 years as a weapons specialist and a non-commission officer in charge of training.

“It’s nice to be up there," he said. "[It was a] good flight, good pilot, good day.”

The retirement home he now lives in is in Simsbury. It helped his family set up the special flight.

“To be a part of this the McLean family as well as Mr. Begley’s family, we are so happy to make this moment happen," said Elizabeth Marguis, McLean Care.

“[He] talks about it every day," said Ryan Begley, Robert's grandson. "It’s his passion, so it was very important for him and for me to be up there with him today.”

The pilot of the 4-seater Cessna that Robert Begley went up in said he was doing most of the work.

“It was an honor an honor to go up with him and fly," said Patrick O'Connor, the flight instructor. "I barely had to work, it was all this guy."

It was hard to get Robert Begley's head out of the clouds.

“Next time more flight time," he said. "[It] takes a while to get used to. [There's] a lot of dials, a big airplane for me.”

His family is planning another trip and flight next year for his 99th birthday.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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