Local pilot takes 92 year old into air for birthday celebration | TheUnion.com

Local pilot takes 92 year old into air for birthday celebration

Joan Gilleran, 92, left joined pilot Gordon Mills on a birthday flight over Nevada County Friday.
Submitted photo/Lorraine Jewett |

For her 80th birthday, Joan Gilleran treated herself to a white-water rafting trip in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

She planned to sky-dive for her 90th birthday, but doctors warned that her heart wasn’t up to it.

Thanks to successful cardiac surgery last spring, Joan was ready to celebrate turning 92 this year with a breath-taking flyover of Nevada County.

“That was loads of fun. I could see almost all the way to the mountain range on the coast,” says Joan.

She arrived Tuesday from Rhode Island for a week-long vacation visit with her son Sean Gilleran, who is the general manager of the Gold Miners Inn-Holiday Inn Express. Her hour-long flight with Alpine Aviation was a belated birthday gift from her son.

“I knew she’d enjoy it,” said Sean. “She’s always been a bit of a thrill-seeker.”

Her flight was aboard a Diamond Eclipse two-seater, considered the sports car of trainer planes. The scenic tour took her over the Empire Mine, Scotts Flat and Rollins Lakes, Nevada City and Grass Valley, where the plane buzzed her son’s hotel.

Pilot and Alpine Aviation co-owner Gordon Mills takes various customers on scenic flyovers about once a month. Sometimes the clients are youngsters, who ask to view their home or school from the air. Occasionally a couple will request a romantic sunset flight. But very few are as old — and as young at heart — as Joan.

“We flew a doctor who was in his late 80s to Oregon, and we’ve transported some other elderly clients,” reports Mills. “But Joan has to be the most ‘senior’ passenger we’ve had in our 25 years in business. And she was giggling and laughing during the entire trip.”

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