Troy resident and World War II Navy veteran Andy Coubrough Jr. prepares to fly through the sky as part of the Dream Flight program on Sept. 5.

Troy resident and World War II Navy veteran Andy Coubrough Jr. prepares to fly through the sky as part of the Dream Flight program on Sept. 5.

Photo provided by Maureen Coubrough


Troy veteran takes to the skies with a ‘dream flight’

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published September 22, 2021

 Andy Coubrough Jr., right, signs his name to the Stearman PT-17 he flew in with the help of Molly and Keith Littlefield, left and center, as part of the Dream Flight program.

Andy Coubrough Jr., right, signs his name to the Stearman PT-17 he flew in with the help of Molly and Keith Littlefield, left and center, as part of the Dream Flight program.

Photo provided by Maureen Coubrough

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TROY — World War II veteran and Troy resident Andy Coubrough Jr. took to the skies Sept. 5, more than 75 years after his service in the Pacific theater.

Retired United Airlines Capt. Molly Littlefield and her husband, Keith Littlefield, a former Vietnam War pilot and airline pilot, took Coubrough up from the Oakland/Troy Airport as part of the Dream Flight program, which takes veterans on new — generally more peaceful — missions.

“My husband and I find that these flyers, whether they are women or men, come alive when they come to the airplane, when they go up, and when they finish,” said Molly. “They discuss memories that they may not have talked about in years. We often hear from families that they share stories they never talked about before, both pleasant and unpleasant.”

The flight took place in a World War II-era biplane, a common craft for pilots in training during the war.

“It’s a Stearman PT-17. A huge percentage of World War II pilots learned to fly in a Stearman; probably 90%,” said Molly. “(Keith and I) both have fathers who were Army Air Corps pilots, and we have our own Stearman planes; I even learned to fly in one, so we not only have a connection to World War II veterans but also to this plane.”

Coubrough, now 96 years old, said the ride was incredible and that it brought him back to his younger days growing up on Detroit’s east side.

“The flight brought back memories as a young boy in my early teens, when we lived on the east side in Detroit,” he wrote in an email. “I would go to the nearby Harper Airport, then located on Harper between Morang and Seven Mile Road, to clean and wash the exterior of the planes. For my pay, the pilots would take me on a flight across Lake St. Clair to the shores of Canada and back.”

Coubrough served in the Navy during the war, serving on a naval patrol craft that hunted enemy submarines and escorted larger vessels. He said the opportunity to fly is something that can mean a lot to veterans.

“Overall, the day was exhilarating; not an everyday experience. I was not familiar with Dream Flights until our close friend Susan Ryan brought it to my wife’s attention. The nonprofit reaches out to WWII veterans through volunteers who generously give their time and skills to WWII vets,” Coubrough wrote. “Flying into Mother Nature in the 1942 biplane, also brought me right back to being an 18-year-old and the many times over the following three years, when off-duty from the engine room, sitting on a ready box, mesmerized by the beauty and mystery of the Pacific Ocean.”

He added it was a smooth ride in the old biplane.

“While enjoying the lift in an open cockpit into the wind, listening to the very loud noise of the propeller driven engine, I did think the aircraft engineers did a marvelous design job making a highly maneuverable machine using two 32-foot wings.”

The Littlefields said that helping veterans go on these rides is the least they can do for people who sacrificed so much and put their lives on the line.

“Most of these veterans are so humble. They don’t consider themselves heroes. So many have said they just did what they had to do, but we wouldn’t have a free country if they didn’t fight and die for our freedom,” Molly remarked. “They are indeed the greatest generation, and we feel that without the World War II soldiers, that we wouldn’t be the free country we are today.”

The Dream Flight program travels around the country working with veterans in every state. Only a few days after taking Coubrough up, the Littlefields were already across the country working with other veterans.

“People go to www.dreamflights.org and there’s a link that you can follow to sign up,” Molly said. “We go from airport to airport depending on where the veterans are. We have six airplanes that go around the nation. We’re in Arizona and New Mexico right now.”

Coubrough thanked the Littlefields for helping veterans like him go on another adventure.

“Recently retired Captain Molly Littlefield of United Airlines and her husband Keith, a former Vietnam pilot, were generous in spirit and with their time,” he wrote. “(They were) chock full of facts about the biplane’s history in training future pilots in WWII as well as Dream Flights origins and its commitment to reach as many as 1,200 to 1,300 WWII vets as possible by the end of September 2021 commemorating 75 years since the official signing of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri added depth to the whole experience.”

Coubrough said that programs like this are crucial to showing appreciation to those who served in the armed forces.

“I like to think all veterans who have served both in combat and non-combat roles are being recognized and honored for their love and service to our country through the recognition of the final few of us from WWII,” he wrote.

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