Maine man celebrates 90th birthday with helicopter ride

George Dunn is an FAA Master Pilot Award winner, and has been flying since 1953
Published: Apr. 9, 2023 at 5:30 AM EDT
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ELLSWORTH, Maine (WABI) - If you’ve ever been part of organizing a surprise birthday for someone, you know one of the key elements is keeping that someone away until it’s time for the party to start.

On the list of creative ways to keep someone from finding out about their surprise birthday party, the family of George Dunn may have topped them all.

“My brother said, ‘Well, I’ll tell him we’re gonna give him a helicopter ride for his birthday. So they’ve got him in the air and they’re flying now, and he’s gonna tell him, ‘Hey, isn’t that your church that you go to? Lets go down and see what’s going on. There’s a lot of cars.’ They’re just gonna bring him in, and he has no idea what’s going on. So he should be completely surprised,” said George’s son, Jim.

Dunn is an FAA Master Pilot Award winner, and has been flying since 1953. So, being in the air is nothing new.

But, what he had waiting for him when he landed on Saturday was.

“I just thought that’s all we were going for, was to ride in the helicopter. I didn’t figure it out when I got out of the plane. I never had a clue. There was a lot of people there and I could see some of my relatives, and I figured they were here for supper. I walked up and then it come to me, what was going on,” said George.

Of course, to pull something like this off, you need to know somebody with a helicopter.

Enter longtime family friend Nate Holyoke, and his Bell Jet Ranger.

“Something that we were planning on coming to but it felt like it might add a little special piece to do that, to be able bring him in the way that he always likes to be, which is up in the air,” Holyoke said.

At 90 years old, this surprise party wasn’t his first big birthday event.

“All his milestone ones, he’s had pretty good birthdays, yes. First one he’s landed in a helicopter, yes. Yes it is,” said George’s daughter, Patricia.

It also wasn’t the first to be celebrated by multiple generations of the Dunn family.

“A lot of people do not have the chance to meet their great grandparents, and my great grandparents are still alive. So, I’m glad that I actually got to meet them, and I’m glad they lived this long,” said George’s great-grandson, Brayden Dyer.

And while Dunn was thankful for the company, and the love shown by family and friends, he was still spent much of his birthday party thinking about getting back in the air.

It’s hard to keep a good pilot on the ground.