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Kenyon Woman, 95, Takes Flight In War Plane Flown By Late Husband, Restored By Son

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- With the help of her son and an 80-year-old airplane, a 95-year-old Kenyon woman can cross something pretty big off her bucket list.

Jean Hiner's late husband Jim was a World War II pilot.

"His head was in the air most of the time [laughs], I would say!" Jean said.

She means that affectionately, and literally. During the war, he flew 25 missions in Europe.

"Some of them I guess you would call scary to most people," said son Kirk Hiner. "Dad was willing to share his stories," said son Kirk Hiner.

Those stories were made possible because Jim learned to fly with a PT-19 trainer plane. After the war, he and a friend decided to buy the same kind of plane and restore it. Jean helped by stitching fabric on the wings, which was a very time-consuming task.

Jim Hiner with is PT-19
Jim Hiner (credit: The Hiner Family)

She helped get it back in the air, but sadly never got to ride in it. Life got in the way. Jim's partner bought him out, and his son Kirk says the last time the plane was in the air was on Sept. 20, 1990. Twenty-seven-years later, Jim passed away on Sept. 21, 2017.

Fast forward a year to Sept. 21, 2018. A year to the date his dad died, Kirk got a call that his father's old PT-19 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.

With memories of his father all around, Kirk brought the PT-19 back to life. His first passenger was his mom, who finally got her flight -- one that had been delayed for decades.

"I had friends say, 'Oh, I'd be afraid to do it.' It was solid. I had no fear," Jean said.

At the age of 95, she is still looking for a thrill.

"Oh yes [laughs], that's what keeps you going!" Jean said.

That, and knowing Jim would be proud.

"I know he's looking down, grinning, very happy," Kirk said.

Jean said that won't be her last flight in the PT-19. She's looking forward to going up again.

Kirk wanted to thank his friend Gary Underland for helping him get the PT-19 running again.

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