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A first at 90

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The helicopter with Ralph and nancy Redelman aboard lifts off from Mettel Field at Connersville Municipal Airport.
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Ralph Redelman sits in the co-pilot seat of a helicopter before it took him and his wife, Nancy, on a ride Thursday morning. Nancy bought him the ride as a present for his 90th birthday.

By BOB HANSEN - bhansen@newsexaminer.com

Curiosity is what got Ralph Redelman up in a helicopter for the first time in all of his 90 years.

That, and a surprise birthday gift from his wife, Nancy.

Redelman took to the air Thursday morning, six days after his birthday last Friday. He sat in the co-pilot’s place in a four-seat helicopter that flew to Mettel Field at Connersville Muncipal Airport from Fishers. Nancy sat in a back seat as Tannan Austin piloted.

Redelman said he wanted to go up because of something he saw from the road and couldn’t figure out how to get to it. He had driven several times in the area of Dover, a small community in Dearborn County. He had seen a flag on a hill and then a horse and rider. Then, a chapel appeared. Redelman couldn’t find an entrance from the road.

“I’ve always wanted to see that, so that’s our destination,” he said before take-off.

He’d never been up in a helicopter. Nancy bought him that as a birthday gift. She figured that while they were up, they could also fly over Redelman’s farms, north of Connersville. She’s not telling him how much it cost.

Ralph isn’t a stranger to flying. As a much younger man, he took flying lessons and was only a couple hours away from earning his pilot’s license. “The lessons were $10 an hour but I needed some bulldozer work done and that was $10 a hour. I wished I’d have gone ahead and finished. I love to fly.”

Several friends came to the airport to see them lift off. As they waited for the helicopter, Brad Starr jokingly said, “Nancy, did you tell him he has to parachute back? They only take you up.”

Brian Walker, husband of Sheri Walker who works in cardiac rehab with Nancy, said he wished he was going up. He hadn’t been in a helicopter since his service in the Marine Corps more than 30 years ago.

At about 10 a.m., an all-white Robinson R-44 Raven 1 set down on the concrete apron and took on fuel. Ralph and Nancy climbed aboard and, shortly, went up. Austin said he’d fly at about 90 knots, roughly 110 mph, and would slow down a bit to circle the landmarks.

About 90 minutes later, the helicopter set back down at the airport.

“Oh my gosh, it was awesome,” Nancy Redelman said. “You wouldn’t even know you were up in the air. And the view, you felt so free.

“Ralph thoroughly enjoyed it. We flew at 110 mph and it didn’t feel like it at all. It felt like we were just moseying down the road.”