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The ride of his life: Critically ill veteran gets flight on World War II plane

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    Pilot and Vietnam War veteran Dane Jorgensen, 70, and 29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts prepare to taxi to the runway at Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Bryan Jorgenson helps U.S. Army veteran Seth Spotts, 29, of Ashland as he is lowered into the Bt-13 airplane from World War II that Jorgensen’s father Dane would be use to take Spotts for a ride at Wadsworth Municipal airport Thursday.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Eric Ayer of The Wood Guy tree service, right, practices before using his bucket truck to lift and lower 29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts into pilot Dane Jorgensen’s 1942 BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    U.S. Army Veteran Seth Spotts of Ashland, right, is pictured with his wife Veronica and children Hayden, 8 and Haleigh, 5, before taking to the skies in Dane Jorgensen’s BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Airport Sunday. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    U.S. Army Veteran Seth Spotts of Ashland before taking to the skies in Dane Jorgensen’s BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Airport Sunday. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    U.S. Army Veteran Seth Spotts, 29, of Ashland, and pilot Dane Jorgensen make a low pass over Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday morning. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia and uses a wheelchair.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    U.S. Army Veteran Seth Spotts, 29, of Ashland, and pilot Dane Jorgensen takeoff from Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday morning in Jorgensen’s 1942 BT-13 airplane.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Eric Ayer of The Wood Guy tree service, right, practices before using his bucket truck to lift and lower 29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts into pilot Dane Jorgensen’s 1942 BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    U.S. Army Veteran Seth Spotts of Ashland before taking to the skies in Dane Jorgensen’s BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Airport Sunday. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts went for a ride in a small aircraft for the first time Thursday morning thanks to a collaboration between Inspire Aviation, the Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital the nonprofit organization Serving Area Military and The Wood Guy tree service. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia and uses a wheelchair.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts and his wife Veronica fly side by side thanks to area pilots Gary Baker and Dane Jorgensen. Spotts is currently fighting advanced stage leukemia and is confined to a wheelchair.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Pilot and Vietnam War veteran Dane Jorgensen, 70, of Doylestown volunteered his 1942 BT-13 aircraft to take U.S. Army veteran Seth Spotts, 29, of Ashland for a cruise around Southern Medina County Thursday morning. Spotts is currently battling advanced stage leukemia.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Pilot Gary Baker takes Veronica Spotts of Ashland for a ride in his RV6 aircraft so she could be in the air at the same time as her husband, who was flying in a 1942 BT-13 with pilot Dane Jorgensen.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Eric Ayer of The Wood Guy tree service, right, practices before using his bucket truck to lift and lower 29-year-old Army veteran Seth Spotts into pilot Dane Jorgensen’s 1942 BT-13 airplane at Wadsworth Municipal Airport Thursday.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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    Vietnam veteran Dane Jorgensen, 70, said he purchased his 1942 BT-13 aircraft about five or six years ago in Florida. The plane is powered by a 450 horsepower Pratt & Whitney radial engine.

    NATHAN HAVENNER / GAZETTE

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WADSWORTH — U.S. Army veteran Seth Spotts waved to his family from the cockpit of a 76-year-old BT-13 World War II trainer aircraft as pilot Dane Jorgensen taxied onto the runway at Wadsworth Municipal Airport on Thursday morning.

While the 29-year-old Ashland resident and Afghanistan veteran recently underwent surgery for advanced leukemia and requires a wheelchair, he did not let that stop him from enjoying the ride of his life.

“When I found out, I was pretty ecstatic about it and the kids were, too,” Spotts said afterward

Inspire Aviation President Mike Bowser said Thursday that he worked with the Veterans Administration hospital in Cleveland, the Serving Area Military nonprofit and a Clinton-based tree service, The Wood Guy, to make the ride happen for Spotts, whose prognosis is terminal.

“I was Air Force for 21 years, I just retired. I went to Iraq, Afghanistan five times,” Bowser said.

“Just to do something like this for a fellow veteran just means the world for me.”

Eric Ayer carefully lifted Spotts up and into the aircraft’s rear seat using his tree service bucket truck and a new safety harness.

It was the first time that he has ever used his truck to move another person.

“It is basically like taking apart a tree with a crane,” he said. “You just very gently pick him up and very gently put him down. Just go easy, don’t take him for a ride.”

The group, including Spotts’ wife, Veronica, 8-year-old son Hayden and 5-year-old daughter Haleigh, quickly drove over to the runway after Spotts was strapped in to watch the blue and yellow single-engine plane take to the sunny skies over southern Medina County.

A second airplane, piloted by Gary Baker of the Wadsworth chapter of Experimental Aircraft Association, soon followed — this time with Veronica in the passenger’s seat.

“Veronica and I are going to take off and we will form up off of Dane and Seth and we’ll put them on a special frequency and they can talk to each other,” Baker said before takeoff.

After touching down with Veronica, Hayden and Haleigh each took a ride in Baker’s RV6 airplane.

“Stuff like this is why I built the airplane,” Baker said. “Part of my E.A. chapter’s mission is to introduce kids to aviation and this just expands upon that.”

Spotts and Jorgensen spent about 45 minutes in the air.

“It is a better view than a bigger plane, (you can) take in a lot more,” Spotts said afterward while cooling off in a nearby hanger. “The scenery is just phenomenal.”

Veronica said the fact that their entire family was able to participate made the experience that much more memorable.

“It has been amazing, this is the kids’ first time ever in an airplane so they are beyond excited,” she said.

Bowser said he knows firsthand how difficult leukemia can be on not just the patient, but the family around them.

“I have a little 2-year-old niece that has leukemia; I have seen how it hurts the family,” he said.

Spotts said he appreciates the support that continues to be shown to him and his family.

“It means a lot,” he said. “Everybody here is showing their support. It don’t matter what branch it is, this is great. It is a good group.”

Contact reporter Nathan Havenner at (330) 721-4050 or nhavenner@medina-gazette.com.
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