"At the beginning of World War II, I was 10 years old, "Jim remembered. "Planes are flying over all the time. Of course you dream of doing all that kind of stuff."
He kept his eyes on the sky by entering the Air Force, but he still wasn't quite there.
"I was not airborne. I was on the ground. I was a radio operator."
It wasn't until Jim was 54 years old that he got his chance. His wife gave him a gift certificate for a flying lesson.
"I knew I was going to like it before I ever left. There was no doubt in my mind about that. It was just a matter of how much."
One lesson and Jim was hooked. He signed up for more and in time logged 250 hours. Jim was flying for fun about ten years before he realized there was more to do in the sky.
"One day I saw a brochure about Lifeline Pilots," said Jim. "It just looked like a good thing."
It is a good thing. Lifeline Pilots was founded back in 1981 by Wanda Whitsitt. The Champaign woman got pilots to volunteer their time and planes. They fly sick people or their family to where they need to go free of charge. Jim signed up immediately.
"My first flight was going into Memphis, TN, taking a mom down, bringing dad back and their little girl down there had a malignant tumor."
The requests for flights kept coming. Almost all of Jim's have been families dealing with cancer.
"I had a little girl been taking bone marrow transplants for five years and she was a little over five years old. She's been doing it her whole life," Jim said.
You would think after hearing these stories, the mood inside the cockpit would be grim. But Jim says that's actually not the case.
"The people, when you're with them, they're happy to be going where they're going."
He's happy to be at the controls making that happen. Sometimes his duties don't end when they land. Like when he took a sick teenager from St. Jude's Hospital back home to Peoria so she could go to prom.
"They had a lot of stuff to carry in," remembered Jim. "I stuck out both arms and they stuck this dress across me and I got to carry the prom dress in that they had picked out so I thought I was kind of honored to get to do that."
Jim has been flying for almost thirty years now, but one lesson he learned in the sky didn't come from one of his instructors.
"If you get to feeling sorry for yourself, you just think what you've seen and what other people are putting up with and your problems are nothing."