Flying High at Age 98
Posted on February 12, 2014 by Taylor Rhea
No matter how old we grow, we never lose our desire for a thrill: the feeling of exhilaration, a mixture of excitement and fear. It’s the kind that makes adrenaline rush through our bodies on a rollercoaster ride. The kind that lets us escape from our ordinary lives, even just for a moment.
If Frank Seaman could fly anywhere in the world he says he’d go back to Italy. “We went there twice, once with an Italian couple, and there is something about it that draws you back,” he added.
Frank and his wife Ann have been married for more than 75 years after meeting on a blind date in Long Island, New York. Frank worked for the National Can Corporation for 42 years. “I started out as an apprentice in the factory in Queens, worked my way up to mechanic, then as Chief Inspector and finally as Master Mechanic,” said Frank.
In December 1941, he and Ann were sitting in their living room when they heard the news about Pearl Harbor. “The following Monday when I went to work, they told me I was going to Pennsylvania to make anti-aircraft shells for the Navy,” Frank added. Later on, Frank opened another plant in Minnesota where they made mortar shells for the Army.
“When the war was over, the plants were shut down, so we moved back to New York and I was transferred to the New Jersey plant, where I worked as the Plant Manager until I retired in 1979. We had been visiting Florida for many years, and after I retired we bought a condo in Hollywood, Florida. We also lived in Boynton Beach, Deerfield Beach, and eventually we moved into Atria at St. Joseph’s.”
Frank and Ann have three children: Frank Jr., Gail, and Walter, along with five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. His oldest son, Frank Jr., helped spark his interest in flying planes. Immediately after graduating, Frank Jr. joined the service. “He was a helicopter mechanic and pilot,” said Frank. “But I’ve just always wanted to fly a plane,” he added.
Once Engage Life Director, Chad Adcock found out about Frank’s wish, he quickly contacted Frank’s daughter, Gail, and made special arrangements with a local flight school, SunQuest Aviation, to make this dream come true. 98-year-old Frank Seaman would finally have his chance to fly an airplane for the first time!
“We were not sure if the weather was going to cooperate, but it turned out to be quite nice. Before he left, Frank jokingly told me to spread a bed sheet out on the top of the building so that he would know where to crash the plane!” Chad remarked. “The first thing Frank said to me after landing was, ‘We weren't going to come back, but we didn't have enough gas.’ Frank's son also went along as a passenger with his dad…It was a fantastic experience for everyone involved, especially Frank.”
When asked what it was like to fly the plane, Frank said it’s a lot harder than it looks. “Flying an airplane was a lot like driving a car. However, it was a lot more complicated than I thought it would be. There is a long checklist that the pilot has to go through, and there are several gauges that you have to watch and pay attention to at the same time. If you are not watching what you are doing, the plane will be ascending or descending and you won’t even realize it. The most important thing is to know where to fly.”
There is no fear in Frank. When asked if he was scared flying the plane, Frank joked, “No, if any pilot is crazy enough to let me fly a plane, then I’ll go up and fly it.”
Frank is an advocate for all thrill-seekers. His advice for them is clear: “Go to it. What are you waiting on? I’m still trying new things [at 98]. My son is taking me out for a pontoon boat ride this weekend…I’m still alive, and that sure beats the alternative.”