Refer a Patient

Veteran pilot who served through three wars soars the skies one final time

Fox 4 Kansas City

A WWII veteran got a final wish to come true Saturday. The 91-year-old Navy and Air Force pilot got to take to the skies one last time.

“I never did want to go someplace in an airplane. I just liked to fly,” said Sam Northway.

Northway’s been in love with airplanes since he was just a kid.

“The earth looks beautiful when you’re flying over it, looking down. It doesn’t look like that when you’re on the ground looking at it,” said Northway.

Northway proudly served the country as a Navy pilot and seaman in WWII.

“I got about a sea bag full of one a day love letters from my sweetie, and they’re in the bottom of Pearl Harbor,” Northway said.

But the heartache of war didn’t stop his passion for flight. He joined the Air Force, serving through both the Korean and Vietnam War eras. The sight of vintage aircraft still catches his eye.

“Beautiful airplanes,” he said.

Now 91, Sam knows there aren’t too many more chances for takeoff. Staff at Crossroads Hospice and Palliative Care know Sam’s love for the skies. With a little help from the Commemorative Air Force, they were able to pull off a last wish for Sam to take flight through the hospice center’s “gift for a day” program.

“It means the world. The last year for him hasn’t been real great health wise. So for him to be able to do this is such a treat for him, and he deserves it greatly,” said Judy Northway, Sam’s daughter.

“Are you ready to get up in the air?” a nurse said.

“Oh yes!” Sam said.

His chariot for the day was a WWII Army bi-plane.

“Are you going to take me up in this?” Sam said.

“I am,” the pilot said.

But taking off these days is a bit more challenging than it once was.

“Let’s get his feet squared away,” the volunteers and nurses said.

But once snapped into the seat and his helmet securely in place, it was like no time had passed.

“Bringing back memories?” a volunteer said.

“Oh yes!” said Sam.

Even a half-hour ride soaring high through the Kansas skies was breath taking.

“Oh what a ride!!” Sam said, once back on the ground.

And it was more emotional than he expected, with tears welling in his eyes.

The final flight served as a perfect “thank you” for Northway’s decades of service, and now leaves he and his loved ones with priceless memories.