Nonagenarian takes first flight at 99

GLASGOW, Ky. (AP) - When Bessie Lena Crump was born in 1910,
manned flight was less than seven years old. Orville and Wilbur
Wright made their maiden airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., on
Dec. 17, 1903.
It took Crump a little longer to take hers. The Edmonson County
native flew in an airplane for the first time on Sept. 30 as a 99th
birthday present from members of her family.
Her adventure started with a simple question. One of Crump's
children, Willie Blanton, had asked her mother what she would like
to do for her birthday. She got a surprising answer.
Sonya Blanton, Willie's daughter and Bessie's granddaughter,
explained what happened next to bystanders waiting to see the
historic flight at the Glasgow Airport.
"My mother was just talking to her one day and said, Now your
birthday's coming up. What do you think you would like to do for
your birthday?' And she said, Well, I've never flown, so I guess
I'd like to fly in an airplane."'
The family didn't really take Bessie seriously at first.
"We didn't think much about it, but Mom said she mentioned it
again so I thought well maybe we could find a pilot and a private
plane and see what the price is," Sonya Blanton said. "And if
it's reasonable, we can work it out. So, we just made some phone
The arrangements were finalized and a large group of family and
well-wishers gathered at the airport to watch this spunky
nonogenarian, dressed in a stylish, deep rose-colored pantsuit and
sunglasses, as she was helped aboard the blue and white Cessna 127
parked on the tarmac.
When asked why she had decided to take her first airplane ride,
the snowy-haired Crump said very matter-of-factly, "I just wanted
to do something new, I reckon."
Crump may have had to fight off some preflight jitters, however.
"Coming over she said, Well, what if it falls?' She was really
nervous about it," daughter Nora Buttram said.
Local pilot Ed Begley got a kick out of taking Bessie on her
first flight.
"Oh, I'm thrilled to get to do it. You don't get to do this
every day so we're really happy that she came out," Begley said.
Taking someone Crump's age up for the first time was a first for
him, as well.
"We've had some people in their 80s, maybe low 90s, but I don't
believe I've ever taken anybody 99 up. So that's pretty neat," he
Granddaughters Sonya Blanton, an English teacher at Warren
Central High School, and Stacie Sewell, secretary at Red Cross
Elementary, occupied the two back seats of the plane during
Bessie's first flight. The flight lasted about 30 minutes and
Begley flew Bessie and her two granddaughters just over the Barren
County line into Edmonson County near the community of Rocky Hill
to see if she could recognize her home and her church, Fairview
General Baptist, from the air, which she did.
On the way back to the airport about five miles out, Begley
radioed in that he was letting Bessie take over the controls and
fly the plane, which caused amusement among the waiting crowd.
"She was flying. She actually took the controls. She wouldn't
let them loose. She was going to land, I think," Begley said. "I
really enjoyed it. That was something that she wouldn't release
those controls, I guess she couldn't hear me. Even when I was
landing, I thought I was going to have to overpower her. She flew
about the last five miles back in. I had my hands completely off of
it. I had trimmed up good where it was steady and stable."
Begley told Crump at one point, "I'm going to call my mother
tonight after this. She's 75, but she's still a little bit afraid
to fly and tell her I took you for a ride."
While they waited for their matriarch to return from her flight
to the airport, some of her children and grandchildren reminisced
about Crump and their family through the years.
"A lot of changes have taken place in her lifetime," said
Buttram. "They started out with a horse and buggy and washing on a
scrub board. That's how she washed her clothes when she was first
Buttram also talked about the family's first car.
"She (Crump) said she doesn't remember it. I remember an old
car. It was a Model A. You had to go out in front of it and crank
it to make it start," Buttram said.

Information from: Glasgow Daily Times,

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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