Senior co-pilot’s dream comes true

FAIRFIELD COUNTY – “Skyhawk  A15 – 220,” blared over the loudspeaker at the Fairfield County Airport as Mary Helen Baum, 68, strapped herself securely into the co-pilot seat  of a red, white and black 1960, 210 Centurion, four-seat Cessna and prepared for takeoff.

While Baum had always loved flying, her dream was to actually pilot a plane. On this day, she was about to realize that dream.

Fairfield Airport Director Denise Bryant and Mary Helen Baum just before takeoff. | Darlene Embleton

Baum, a resident of Amara Place Senior Living facility on Polo Road had been selected as the quarterly winner of Amara’s ‘Living a Dream’ program.

Accompanied by Fairfield County Airport Director and pilot, Denise Bryant and her husband Joe, Baum would be taking over the flight controls for a short time as the plane, owned and piloted by Bryant, flew over Lake Murray that midmorning on Aug. 22.

Bryant was donating her plane and her services free of charge for the adventure.

The opportunity came about when Ashleigh Brown, Amara’s Vibrant Life coordinator, reached out to the South Carolina Aviation Association to set Baum’s dream in motion.  With the help of Bryant, who donated her time in support of South Carolina Aviation Week, the dream soon became a reality for Baum.

“I was happy to volunteer my Cessna and to pilot Mary Helen,” Bryant said.  “I asked Davis Anderson, Deputy Administrator for Fairfield County, about the county covering the cost of the gas, and they agreed.”

As the Cessna’s engines revved and the propeller spun to an invisible whirr, a busload of Baum’s fellow Amara seniors enthusiastically waved and cheered.

The plane taxied out on the runway and soon ascended into the clear blue sky over Fairfield County.  They would level off at about 4,500 feet over Lake Murray.

“Our Vibrant Life program believes that no dream is too big and age should never be a factor for our residents,” Brown said.

“We picked Mary Helen this quarter because she is a ball of sunshine and is always ready to reach out and help our other residents and staff.  She worked 36 years giving to others as a psychology nurse, so we wanted to give something special back to her.”

Baum returned from her flight thrilled over her adventure.

“It was even better than I thought it would be!” Baum said, excitedly.  “It was so beautiful.  I liked the altitude as I looked down on the clouds and water and houses.  I pulled the steering wheel and felt the power,” she said, demonstrating with her hands.  “I wasn’t scared.”

Baum thanked the Bryants for their kindness and reassurance during the 30-minute flight.

“If you ever have a chance to do this…go for it!” the spunky co-pilot told her senior friends who greeted her after she deplaned.

As Baum, walked off the tarmac, she paused and looked back at the plane.

“I just hope everyone gets to live their dream like I did,” she said.