On army veteran captain John Billings’ third birthday, his father took him on his first plane ride at an airfield close to his home.
“It probably was only 10 or 15 minutes but it felt like the whole afternoon, and that did it,” said Billings.
In 1942, straight out of high school, Billings enlisted in the U.S army.
“Nobody wanted to get in the war that was going on, well it became our problem, said Billings.
Billings was determined not to be an infantry man, he wanted to take to the skies. After putting in hundreds of hours of training , he did just that.
“It was fantastic, it was. And I’m not good enough to be able to formulate how good that felt.” he said.
And although he can’t put into words the feeling of flying his first plane, he remembers it like it was yesterday.
“It was two seats, had a two cylinder engine, 36 horse power,” said Billings.
And he remembers the many missions he went on across Europe, a number of them being ones where he lost friends, and crew members.
“And right at that moment he had got one of the hits, and it hit in the bomb bay and all of the bombs were armed, and it just was a blinding flash,” said Billings about one of his lost crew members.
Billings considers himself lucky, not only to be alive, but to still be doing what he loves, decades after leaving the military.
The plane that Captain Billings is flying now is much different than the bomber planes he flew over 75 years ago, but he says the feeling he gets when flying hasn’t changed a bit.
In 2005, Billings became a pilot for Angel Flight. He and his co-pilot, Nevin Showman, provided free air transportation for passengers in need of medical treatment .
“I am satisfying my desire to fly and at the same time helping somebody get where they need to go,” said Billings.
The now 95-year-old has been on over 200 Angel Flights and when asked if he’s thinking about hanging it up any time soon, he says:
“Well I’m going to fly until I can’t fly anymore.”
In September, Captain Billings reunited with his 484th bomb group in Dayton, Ohio.