Episodes of The Sport Clips Haircuts Hall of Fame Podcast - Haircuts with Heart featuring Darryl Fisher from Ageless Aviation Dream Flights

Red Banner with HOF Episode

In this episode, we interview the founder of Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation, Darryl Fisher. We discuss the mission of AADF, hear updates from memorable flights in 2019 and find out what's coming up soon! The Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation is a non-profit organization established and dedicated to honoring seniors and United States military veterans. The primary focus is on individuals living in long-term care communities. Their mission is to “Give Back To Those Who Have Given”. Through Sport Clips and other donors, the Foundation provides Dream Flights in a Boeing Stearman biplane, the same aircraft used to train many military aviators in the 1940’s. For more information, click here.

Chad Jordan and Darryl Fisher holding a microphone at Darlington Racetrack

Episode Air Date Guest Name Guest Title Topic(s)
November 8, 2019 Darryl Fisher Founder and President Update on Ageless Aviation Dream Flights and what's coming!

Each episode of the Podcast is also available on iTunes and the Google Play store. 

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Chad: All right. Hey everybody, this is Chad Jordan, I'm the Director of Marketing here at Sport Clips and this is another edition of our Hall of Fame Podcast. And I'm super excited. First of all, hi on YouTube if you're watching us there. First time ever, we have a two-time guest and I was telling him earlier if it's up to me, it'll be a three, four, five, six, keep going time guest because we're here in Darlington so it just so happens that we sync up every Labor Day weekend for the big race that we have out here.

Chad: But you're going to hear from my guest and exactly what his organization does and how Sport Clips partners with him and his organization, but super passionate about this. Our stylists love being a part of it. Team leaders, team members across the country are very excited about this partnership. So without further ado, I'm going to have him introduce himself and tell us a little bit about this promotion, this partnership that we've got going on, why it's so successful, what we love about it. And we're going to get caught up on what's happened over the course of this last year. So without further ado, young man, can you let me know who you are and what the heck you're doing here?

Darryl: Thanks Chad. It's great to be here always. You know our partnership with Sport Clips goes back now six years and and as the... I'm Darryl Fisher by the way if you didn't know that already, but-

Chad: Thanks for letting me know and we've got everybody else now clued in. Darryl is with-

Darryl: Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. And you know we go all over the country giving flights to veterans that live in assisted-living centers and retirement centers in our World War II biplanes.

Chad: And their family, spouses, surviving members?

Darryl: Yeah, we do some spouses, and then we do just some seniors. For instance, Thursday in Sumpter-

Chad: Gordon's hometown?

Darryl: In Gordon's hometown, we flew a 102 year old lady.

Chad: Wow.

Darryl: And she just loved life. And frankly at 102 living through the wars, she gave, it just wasn't official, I mean she served in her own way.

Chad: Right.

Darryl: So our partnership is really amazing and it's critical to serving the veterans.

Chad: For those that missed last year's episode, give me kind of the oral history of Ageless Aviation, your background, especially with the senior community, all that kind of stuff.

Darryl: Yeah. Well it's interesting. My grandparents were both pilots and they also were in the senior living business. And so I'm a third generation pilot. I'm third generation in the senior living business. And so in 2011, just through kind of a fluke in a situation that happened, I gave a Dream Flight in March 29, 2011 in my dad's bi-plane to a World War II veteran in Oxford, Mississippi.

Chad: And what inspired you to do that? How did that come about?

Darryl: I just kind of thought it would be neat. I mean, I can't say that I thought about this whole grand thing that's happened. My dad had had his airplane restored in Mississippi. He asked me to go out from Oregon to help him fly back to Oregon. And I thought, "Well shoot, we've got to make 15 gas stops, so why don't we stop and give a couple of veterans flights from facilities around the country?" And pretty soon, it was such a rich experience.

Chad: For you?

Darryl: For me, it was huge for me. And then we'd wind up on the front page of the newspapers and I'd send the pictures and the videos and everything back to my wife. And when I got home she goes, "We got to keep doing this."

Chad: And this was before viral was really a thing too, you know?

Darryl: Nothing went viral or nothing was going viral back then.

Chad: Yeah. But you had such a great thing. When did it dawn on you all, "Shucks, this could be something we do more than once a lifetime. This should be something that we do across the country."

Darryl: Well I have to give credit to my wife because she was like witnessing it from afar. And so she said, "You know, we've got to keep doing this." And so she has a legal profession as a background. She said, "I'll file all the legal paperwork. You got to do the flying." But she made me promise that if there's no money there's no flying.

Chad: Right. What a wise woman.

Darryl: Yeah, so it seems to work that way. So I started flying.

Chad: And so what does raising money look like back then? How did you find partners? What was going on?

Darryl: You know, it's the weirdest thing, Chad. Our mission in what we do is such a rich and meaningful experience. I've never really sent out a fundraising letter. People have kind of contacted me, they've seen it. They say, "We want to support this." You know, I've of course asked people for money, but it's just been organic and in Sport Clips included. And I tell this story all over the country that Matt Deputy worked for Sport Clips and he was the Veterans Affairs person, he contacted me.

Chad: Really?

Darryl: So Sport Clips contacted me.

Chad: So you didn't cold call Gordon in his office, "Hey, by the way, I know you're a pilot and I got something for ya."

Darryl: I did not. Sport Clips and Gordon was made aware of it through one of your franchisees out of Fresno, California. And based on that, Matt sent me an email. I was sitting in Chicago at the airport after Memorial Day, I had just flown. And I get an email from Matt Deputy and it says, "Hey, we see what you're doing. It's really, really cool. How can we help?"

Chad: Wow.

Darryl: And that, I mean that is amazing from a character standpoint and it speaks volumes of the culture in the core of who Sport Clips is and Gordon Logan. And so our partnership has grown since then.

Chad: What year is this?

Darryl: This is six.

Chad: Okay.

Darryl: Year six.

Chad: Yeah. And with Sport Clips as a partner?

Darryl: Yes.

Chad: Who else? What other partnerships?

Darryl: We have other partnerships. Matrix Care, they're a software company for senior living, they donate to the foundation. We've got our very first donor, that was Direct Supply, and they've donated every year. I mean they wrote the first check and they're out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they've faithfully written a check every year. And without them, honestly Chad, I don't know that we would have taken off so to speak.

Chad: Because correct me if I'm wrong, you still have a full time job, right?

Darryl: Oh yeah.

Chad: So you haven't done this for a living?

Darryl: No, I get paid in satisfaction.

Chad: Right.

Darryl: And honestly, I would never want to get paid for this because if you started putting money to it, it changes the motivation. So nobody that fulfills our mission gets paid.

Chad: So all your pilots-

Darryl: Everybody's volunteer.

Chad: The coordinators, everybody?

Darryl: Yeah.

Chad: That's phenomenal. So the money raised goes to where? I imagine maintenance on the plane, fuel-

Darryl: Travel, hotels.

Chad: Right, getting people-

Darryl: Right.

Chad: Getting people shuffled around.

Darryl: We have one paid person.

Chad: Out of?

Darryl: 50 volunteers.

Chad: Yeah, exactly.

Darryl: And we now have four airplanes.

Chad: So yeah. Tell me about, you've got four across the country. Where are they housed? How does that all work?

Darryl: Well we kind of keep one now in Phoenix. It starts in Phoenix in the winter time and then we'll move that North up into Nevada and over into Colorado and New Mexico and stuff. And then we've got one in Oregon that kind of handles that part of it. We just dedicated the Spirit of Wisconsin.

Chad: Yeah, tell me about that one.

Darryl: Well that's going to be the upper Midwest.

Chad: It did a bunch of flights in Wisconsin this spring.

Darryl: Yeah, we gave 75 flights in Wisconsin on the dedication tour. We're working right now to bring the Spirit of Texas alive. We had somebody donate an airplane.

Chad: Okay.

Darryl: Sport Clips has been involved with raising money for that. It's in restoration. And so I'm crossing my fingers, but we're planning on dedicating that airplane.

Chad: Awesome. So what are the four planes right now? What are their names?

Darryl: We only have one named Spirit of Wisconsin because they raised the money for that airplane.

Chad: Got you.

Darryl: The Spirit of Texas will be the second one.

Chad: What's the one that's here right now?

Darryl: The one that's here is, we don't have a name, but we call it grandpa's airplane.

Chad: Okay. All right. Was it-

Darryl: My grandfather bought that airplane in 1946, so in our circles, it's called grandpa's airplane.

Chad: Okay. I like that. And is this the one that started at all?

Darryl: No, my dad's. My dad has one, it's a red one with white stripes and that's the one we gave the first flight in. Incidentally, we also gave Lieutenant Colonel Richard Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle's copilot a flight in that red airplane two years ago and he just passed away.

Chad: Wow, no way.

Darryl: So it sends chills up my back.

Chad: I need you, because I missed it, I love me some Gordon Logan, I'm just putting that on the record. We went to breakfast yesterday morning, and let's just say the breakfast was a little slow. The service was, I'm not going to say where it was, but he had to get his liver pudding. And he loves visiting stores, I don't know if you knew this about Gordon, but if he's in a town... So of course we had to go see the store and say hi to all the team members. We didn't have to, but we chose to. It was great, but all those delays compounded and we got to the airstrip, the grass field, moments after this gentleman had left. I need to hear about this World War II veteran that you flew yesterday and that experience. Was it you or Tim? Who took the-

Darryl: I flew, I flew.

Chad: Okay, can you tell me about this guy? Because I think it encapsulates so much of exactly what you guys are doing.

Darryl: His name is Al Fink, and he's 99 years old and he'll be 100 December 3.

Chad: 99 and he got in the plane? He climbed in?

Darryl: He's in amazing shape. He uses a cane, he's in really good shape. His family brought him out to the airfield. He did not know that he was going to fly. He thought he was going to pick strawberries.

Chad: They tricked him.

Darryl: They did.

Chad: Because it's not his birthday, they weren't planning a surprise birthday party or anything. But now he lives in South Carolina?

Darryl: He lives about an hour from Darlington.

Chad: So they said, "Get up early grandpa, we're taking you strawberry picking." Kudos to the man for not shaking his cane and hitting them upside the head that early in the morning to drag him out strawberry picking, but he gets to the airfield and sees-

Darryl: Well he saw the airplane sitting there and it was crazy. I saw him get out of the car and he looks up, and his face just lit up. I mean you could visibly tell a change in his demeanor. He still didn't know what all was going on. And so I went out and talked to him a little bit and he goes, "I used to fly those things." And it turns out he used to fly one the exact same color as the one we had.

Chad: You're kidding me. The blue and the gold or whatever?

Darryl: The blue and yellow.

Chad: Wow.

Darryl: Yeah, in the Army Air Corps. And I've got to go back and research because he flew in 1940 and ours is a 1940.

Chad: Oh, can you imagine?

Darryl: I know. I'm sure that he didn't fly that airplane.

Chad: Can you imagine?

Darryl: I'm going to go back and research it because it would be too cool if he had.

Chad: Now I think I heard a rumor because you guys remove the stick from the front and then the passengers typically fly in the front? I was like, fine, fine, you guys are right behind them. I heard a vicious rumor that you guys put the stick in the front and let him, while you were in the air, you let him take it for awhile.

Darryl: I did. Obviously we were chatting there and it became obvious that he had the capabilities to fly if he wanted to. Some of them don't want to fly. And I said, "Al, do you want to fly the airplane?" He goes, "You'd let me? And I said, "Yeah, if you want to fly, you don't have to." He goes, "I'd love to." So we put the stick in, Chad, he flew it for 15 minutes.

Chad: Oh my gosh.

Darryl: And I'm just sitting back there and he did amazingly well. I mean, he only went within 100 feet of his original altitude for 15 minutes. He was making turns. And I'm just sitting back there in the presence of greatness, and I could see his face in the mirror, and you could see the concentration and the joy.

Chad: He's 20 or 22 years old again.

Darryl: He's into it. He was into it. And he got out, he was just, he couldn't talk fast enough. I mean, he was just energized and his family was there, three generations of his family came to watch.

Chad: Just think, the dude woke up that morning thinking he was going, strawberry picking, and now he's flying his plane again.

Darryl: And he told me it's coming up on 80 years since he had flown an airplane.

Chad: Oh my gosh. 80 years. And that's what I'm saying, goosebumps for me because I can't imagine having gone that long. And when he did it, obviously he was flying for the war and he wasn't flying for fun, but just that memory, the lifetime he's had those all those 80 years come flooding back. It's just amazing.

Darryl: He went on to have a distinguished career with Pan-Am.

Chad: Wow. And he married a Pan-Am Swedish flight attendant or something?

Darryl: I think so.

Chad: I heard this story.

Darryl: They've been married 50 years.

Chad: This guy, we got to do a movie on his life.

Darryl: He wrote a book.

Chad: Oh, we've got to plug it.

Darryl: He wrote a book of his memoirs. And so I'm going to send him one of our books and then they're going to send me one, he's going to sign it for me. But no, I mean he flew the Concord. British Air was just trying to get Pan-Am to buy the Concord.

Chad: And he was like a test pilot for them.

Darryl: Yeah. Yeah. And so here we are, and I just want everybody in the entire Sport Clips organization to know that you guys are helping to give somebody this experience at a time when this is probably going to be his last best experience. I mean, this is what they're going to talk about for the rest of his life.

Chad: Can you imagine? It's going to be one of these things that he and his family will never forget. And I think you were telling me, how many states have you done Dream Flights in?

Darryl: Well, the first week of August I took an airplane to Alaska. And Sport Clips, the team in Alaska came out in Wasilla and Anchorage came out to help. So that was our 41st state and next year our plan is to fly in all 50 states. So I'm working on Hawaii.

Chad: That's where we'll record the podcast next year. I figured it out.

Darryl: You guys have some stores in Hawaii.

Chad: We do. Yeah, we do have some stores in Hawaii. We love the team there, we've got some amazing team leaders and team members there.

Darryl: So two weeks ago we just passed our 4,000th flight.

Chad: Wow. In how many years?

Darryl: Nine years.

Chad: And how many pilots do you have?

Darryl: We have 10 pilots.

Chad: Okay. And we have four in training.

Darryl: All right. I was going to say, I'm sure you could use more.

Chad: Yeah, we could. We're working with the Sport Clips franchisee,

Darryl: Jack Shack?

Chad: Yeah, Jack Shack.

Darryl: He was going to be here this weekend but couldn't work it out. He was going to, things didn't line up. I would guess he'll be here next year.

Chad: Well this is a shout out to all the... We've got some team leaders that are pilots, so all the pilots that are now with Sport Clips, reach out to Daryl Fisher and let's figure out a way to get you guys checked out and helping out with these planes. So anything else on the horizon for the next year?

Darryl: Well next year our plan, it's our 10th anniversary, and so our plan is to fly in all 50 states and get that sort of off our list.

Chad: By that do you mean do 50 states in one year?

Darryl: No, get to.

Chad: Okay.

Darryl: That's a big show and we need more than 14 pilots.

Chad: More than five planes. That's right.

Darryl: Yeah, that's right. That's a big chore, but we want to have given flights in all 50 states.

Chad: What about this, can we keep an eye on when that 50th state will be there? I do want to be there for that.

Darryl: It'll be in New York.

Chad: It'll be New York.

Darryl: Long Island.

Chad: Okay. I love me some New York. That's right. Let's figure timing. Let's capture that.

Darryl: It'd be great if you could come out.

Chad: I want to be there for that and really capture and talk to you guys and whoever else is going to be involved.

Darryl: It actually may also coincide with our 5,000th flight.

Chad: Oh, that would be great.

Darryl: Because it's probably going to be late next year when we get to New York and I'm pretty sure we're going to pass 5,000 Dream Flights.

Chad: Yeah, I love that. So let's go big. Let's do a big event when we do it, we got to. Well, we're having a great time here in Darlington, and all of South Carolina, but this is something special we get to do every year. We sponsor the Saturday race, which Denny Hamlin, I'm not going to say he won. He crossed the finish line first and got to enjoy victory lane. And then found out later that his car had a technical disqualification, but did not rob us of that great experience here. And then we've got, of course, today's race with Eric Jones. So I got to meet his German shepherd. Were you here when his German shepherd was here?

Darryl: Oh, was that his German shepherd?

Chad: So I got a selfie with Oscar, the two year old German shepherd. So we're having a blast here, but you and your team, everyone can be here again today? So Tim and Grace and everybody?

Darryl: Yeah, yeah.

Chad: So we've got just an amazing relationship with all of the Ageless Aviation Dream Foundation, but seeing you guys, this is like a reunion every year for us so we really appreciate all that you're doing, proud of you guys, so thankful for you. And yeah, the partnership is, this is one of our really special ones so we appreciate everything that you guys are doing. And the story that you heard today about was Al Fink. Check it out, we're going to find his book in the link to this podcast because we got to read this man's story, sounds pretty incredible. And this is, like you're saying, you get paid in experiences. This is it. Wow man, you're rich, you're filthy rich, you lucky dog, you. So Darryl, thanks so much for being on here and all you do.

Darryl: Thank you Chad and thanks to everybody out there. It makes the experience so much richer when Sport Clips team members come out and volunteer and help us. It's just a really cool thing.

Chad: We love doing it. We're going to keep doing it. So thanks everybody for your support and tune in next week for another edition.