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Lakewood Ranch veteran honors father in Dream Flight

Loren Wanless re-created a 1937 photo of his father with a World War II-era open cockpit biplane.

Loren Wanless, a resident at Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living, re-creates a photo of his father, Emery Wanless, from 1937.
Loren Wanless, a resident at Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living, re-creates a photo of his father, Emery Wanless, from 1937.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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While flying above Manatee County in a World War II era open cockpit biplane, Loren Wanless thought of his father. 

His father, Emery Wanless, learned how to fly in the same style plane when he was a Naval Aviation Cadet in Pensacola in 1937. Emery Wanless had wanted to be a pilot since at the age of 10 he saw a seaplane in Naples, Italy. 

Loren Wanless, an Air Force veteran, took to the skies April 2 with Dream Flights, a Nevada-based nonprofit that honors veterans with a free flight in a Boeing-Stearman biplane. 

Wanless, a Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living resident, said it was interesting to see firsthand how his father started learning how to fly. 

He had flown in Boeing 707 planes with his father before, but the biplane was a unique experience. He hadn’t flown in an open cockpit before. He waved to his wife, Angelika Wanless, and the other two Cypress Springs residents and veterans, Richard Cornell and James Brooks, as the plane took off.

Loren Wanless, an Air Force veteran and Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living resident, and Molly Littlefield, a pilot for Dream Flights, take to the skies.
Photo by Liz Ramos

In the cockpit, he said he could see the controls move as Molly Littlefield, the pilot for Dream Flights, flew the plane. 

After Littlefield landed back at Airport Manatee in Palmetto, Wanless stood next to the back cockpit and in front of the right wing of the plane. He rested his hand on the entrance to the cockpit and donned a World War II era pilot’s helmet. With a big smile on his face, Linda Britt-Smith, the activities coordinator at Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living, took a photo of Wanless, giving him the opportunity to replicate a photo of his father from 1937 while he was learning to fly.

To match the photo of his father as much as possible, Wanless even wore khaki pants and a tan shirt. 

Loren Wanless enjoys a dream flight in April 2024; Emery Wanless learns to be a pilot in a Boeing-Stearman biplane in 1937.
Photo by Liz Ramos; courtesy image

Wanless looks forward to being able to frame his photo next to his father’s and show it to his four children, Jeanette Emanuelson, Kirk Wanless, Katy MacGregor and Karin Wanless. He said all his children were able to get to know his father and his father’s story. 

“It was amazing to relive his early flying experience,” Wanless said. “I wish he was still alive, but he died about 20 years ago. It would have been really something if he had been here.”

Wanless himself spent 21 years working in intelligence for the Air Force. After he graduated from Stanford University, Wanless planned to go to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. He was in an exchange program in Japan in the summer of 1961, and upon his return home, the Berlin crisis was starting. 

Wanless decided to take a draft physical in Oakland, California. 

He didn’t want to go into the Army, so he joined the Navy Reserve Unit until he could apply and be accepted into Air Force intelligence. 

Wanless flew around the world in a reconnaissance aircraft. He collected intelligence against then-Soviet Union, China and North Korea. 

Loren Wanless says flying in the World War II era Boeing-Stearman open cockpit bilane gave him the opportunity to see what his father, Emery Wanless, went through learning how to fly in the same type of plane in 1937.
Photo by Liz Ramos

He was at Naval Air Station Key West on Boca Chica Key and served as the intelligence officer for the battle commander during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

He monitored a Russian missile site 20 miles away from Sakhalin Island while he stayed in a fishing village in Hokkaido, which is a northern region of Japan. 

Wanless also spent about a year in Thailand flying over Laos monitoring the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which was a military supply route running from north Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia to south Vietnam.

In 1983, Wanless retired as a lieutenant colonel and then worked for Lockheed Martin for 16 years on various classified programs, a global security and aerospace company.

Wanless said it’s fantastic that Dream Flights gives veterans an opportunity to relive their past, or in his case, his father’s past.



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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