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January 19, 2003

Elderly woman to take flight down memory lane

From: Charlotte Sun-Herald, FL - 19 Jan 2003

Minnie Benner isn't letting age keep her out of the sky.

The 94-year-old Punta Gorda woman, who is deaf and legally blind, plans to take a birthday flight in a biplane Jan. 25 at the Charlotte County Airport.

"I'm calling it my flight down memory lane," said Benner, who will turn 95 Jan. 30. "My first flight was in a biplane, and I think this will be my last ride."

Benner first took to the sky in 1930, when her brother, Leslie, bought her a trip in an open-cockpit biplane as a college graduation present. The pilot flew her through an open field in a rural town outside Philadelphia.

"The only thing that would have made it any better was if I was flying the plane," she said.

A love of flying stuck with her throughout her life. She often flew with another brother in his Piper Cubs.

Benner regularly eats with friends at the airport's Tailwinds Cafe. It was there her daughter, Jane England, thought of celebrating her upcoming birthday with a plane ride.

"I figured she needed something to perk her up," England said. "This would give her something to look forward to."

After a picnic-style lunch at the Tailwinds Cafe with about 40 friends, Benner will climb into the cockpit of the 1940 WACO UPF-7 for a quick ride through the skies of Charlotte County.

"I can't wait for them to bundle me up and put a cap on me," she said. "I just hope God gives me the vision to see land.

"I want to see what this part of Florida looks like," she added. "I'll bet it's like a map, a real live map."

You can e-mail Garry Overbey at


Staff Writer

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