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Elderly Iowan’s Flying Wish Granted

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HAMPTON, Iowa  --  Gail Thompson grew up in the days when commercial flying had just started taking off. Today, the 85-year-old thrill seeker is going up for a flight of a lifetime.

“I’ve had butterflies all day. I just wanted everything to be perfect,” said Shannon Crawford.

She’s feeling a few pre-flight jitters on the runway at the Hampton Airport after learning of Gail’s unusual request.

“I said, 'Gail, before you die, what’s one thing you want to do?' And she didn’t even bat an eye,” explained Shannon.

“I said, 'Well, I haven’t flown a plane,'” finished Gail.

They found a pilot and a plane and put their plan into motion.

“Are you ready?” asked pilot Jeremy Heem.

Buckled in, she’s ready to check flying a plane off her bucket list.  After finding her bearings and getting used to a few bumps 3,000 feet in the air, it’s time for Gail to take the controls.

“Very nice,” said Jeremy.

“Well, you’re doing it,” replied Gail.

“I was just helping,” Jeremy responded.

With his help, Gail flew over her old stomping grounds in Ackley and her home in Iowa Falls.

“My favorite part was looking down and seeing all the landscape,” said Gail.

After soaring high, it was time to return to solid ground.

“Well that was terrific,” she said.

“She’d probably like to jump out of the plane and parachute down if she could,” said Gail's son Todd Thompson.

Her two sons say when it comes to their mom’s spirit, the sky is the limit. But a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in her 30s kept her more grounded than she would have liked.

“Hers is the progressive. So it’s slowly progressive so she’s gotten, over the years, a little bit worse, a little bit worse, a little bit worse,” said Todd.

Now in hospice care, the progressive disease has limited her mobility to a wheelchair. But after her walk in the clouds, she’s still flying high.

“I’m feeling really great,” said Gail.

So what’s next? Gail said she still has a few tricks up her sleeve.

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