Wife of 9-11 pilot fulfills his dream

Monday, February 9, 2004

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Jason Dahl's 25th birthday wasn't a good one. He reached an age limit that closed the door on one of his dreams -- becoming an Air Force pilot and flying an F-16 fighter jet.

Sandy Dahl fulfilled that dream Sunday in memory of her husband, who died Sept. 11, 2001, when the commercial jet he was co-piloting was hijacked and crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. United Flight 93 was the only plane of the four hijacked that terrorists were unable to crash into a target.

Dahl didn't just fly an F-16 Sunday -- she took the controls while airborne and guided the jet in rolls, banks and even a loop.

"He would be flat-out jealous," Dahl said after her 45-minute flight, hosted by the Colorado Air National Guard. "This is what he always wanted to do. He loved speed."

Lt. Col. Mike Loh of the 140th Operations Support Flight took Dahl on the flight from this base just east of Denver. They flew southwest into the mountains, eyeing Pikes Peak and the Royal Gorge, and something Jason Dahl had always wanted to do.

Sandy Dahl was able to spot her old house in Ken Caryl Ranch that she shared with Jason, as well as a spot where they once vacationed. She took several pictures of her husband with her on the flight, as well as an ace-of-spades playing card she found in his jacket after he died.

"It brought tears to my eyes. I was very happy," she said, standing in a military flight suit in front of the jet.

"She knew Jason was up there," said Jennifer Blackford, Sandy Dahl's daughter and Jason Dahl's stepdaughter.

Also on board the flight was a flag Sandy Dahl received from Shanksville, Pa., firefighters, who were the first people to reach the crash site. The American flag-based piece had the flight number circled in stars. Printed over the stripes was the phrase "Our Nation Will Eternally Honor the Heroes of Flight 93."

A memorial is being planned in the field southeast of Pittsburgh where Flight 93 crashed, killing 40 passengers and crew members.

Jason Dahl had considered applying for flight school to become an Air Force pilot, but the age limit at the time crept up on him.

"His saddest birthday was his 25th birthday, when the door slammed for him and he knew he wouldn't be able to fly the Porsche of aircraft," Dahl said. "I just completed something he always wanted to do."

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