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By Danielle Charbonneau
South Florida’s Oct. 28 Honor Flight may be the organization’s largest trip yet. Air France has promised to donate the use of an A380 double-decker plane for the group, provided the organization can fill the plane with passengers. Honor Flight is a non-profit that pairs WWII veterans with travel companions to escort them on chartered planes for an honorary pilgrimage to the WWII memorials in Washington D.C. After the journey, the veterans are welcomed back home by a large celebration.
“They will get the honor and homecoming they never received,” said Ryan Paton, the founder and director of operations for South Florida Honor Flight.
Traditionally South Florida Honor flight takes about 78 veterans plus their guardians per trip on a chartered 737 plane, usually out of Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. With Air France’s A380, the Oct. 28 trip could accommodate as many as 225 veterans plus their guardians. The one caveat is that Honor Flight is able to fill the plane.
According to Paton, the fuel alone for such a large flight costs approximately $300,000. so if Honor Flight can’t fill the seats, then the trip will most likely be canceled or rescheduled. The deadline to sign up is Aug. 15.
The trips are complimentary for WWII veterans, while guardians pay about $400 for the privilege.
“The experience is profound and unforgettable,” said Paton.
Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to be a guardian. Guardians undergo a short training before accompanying veterans on the trip. Paton encourages friends and family members to help any WWII veterans they know with the sign-up process by printing out the application. More information can be found on honorflightsouthflorida.org.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]