88-County Flight Set for 75th Anniversary

Dr. Ron Siwik, of Auburn, who owns a Piper Aircraft J3 Cub, will participate in an unusual flight to honor the airplanes' 75th anniversary.
Beginning May 13, he and friend Joe Murray will fly their Piper Cubs to make landings in all of Ohio's 88 counties. They plan to spend more than 26 hours aloft on the 1,670-mile flight to honor the anniversary.
Dr. Siwik, who was a military flight surgeon during the Vietnam War, is not new to such challenges. In 2008, he made a 24,604-mile around-the-world solo flight. That trip, in a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza, took 56 days and was in the planning stages for several years.
Dr. Siwik, now retired, and Dr. Murray, associate professor of journalism at Kent State University, will fly their yellow Piper Cubs to all of Ohio's 88 counties to get to Dayton. They will take off from Kent State University Airport and land at Wright Brothers Airport in Dayton a week or two later.
The flight will include 88 take-offs and landings in their planes that originally were designed for military observation flights and pilot training in World War II.
Dr. Siwik has been flying for 45 years, beginning in San Antonio, Texas, in 1967. His interest in planes was sparked as a boy by his dad and uncles, who talked endlessly about planes and World War II pilots, he said.
"Aviation was in its golden years when I was a child in the 1940s," he said. "We always built model planes."
When he had some time and money, he started flying himself at the age of 27. "I struggled with golf and tennis, but when I got in an airplane, it was like I was born to do it," he said. His own sons started flying in their teens.
Dr. Siwik has been a flight instructor since the 1960s and works at the Portage County Airport.
He and his wife, Rita, bought their first plane in 1973. They had saved for the down payment, but, in 1973, the oil embargo hit, and he got cold feet, he said.
He credited his wife with encouraging him to go forward with his first purchase of a plane. In 1988, they bought the Piper Cub, which was built in 1946. "It's an antique, like the Model A of airplanes," he said.
The two-seater Piper Cub is similar to having an old violin, Dr. Siwik said. It holds a lot of history and is nostalgic because of its heritage, he said.
"The Piper Cub was used to train all our pilots in World War II," he said. By the summer of 1944, it had taught 435,165 pilots to fly in the U.S. Civilian Pilot Training Program.
In July, Dr. Siwik plans to fly to Oshgosh, Wis., for the annual convention and 75th anniversary celebration for Piper Cubs.
For the May 13 trip, Dr. Murray's students will do photography and video work for a documentary and book project.
Friends for many years, Dr. Siwik said Dr. Murray came up with the plan to fly to all the counties.
Their first stop out of the Kent State University Airport will be in Port Clinton. Stops also include the Geauga County Airport in Middlefield.
A motor home will be meeting them when they land for the night.
The last stop is at the Wright Brothers Airport in Dayton. "That's where flight started and where the real research was done," Dr. Siwik said.
The number of days for the trip will depend on weather. They can't fly the small planes in strong winds, he said. "They are too frail. It has to be good weather, and we can't take chances."
Dr. Murray said, "Flying with Ron is a delight. He does it all well, and he makes it appear effortless.
"Our flight around the state will be unique in Ohio aviation history, but, as records go, it is probably best described as peculiar," he said.
The Wright brothers flew to a lot of places in Ohio and also in other countries, but their airplanes weren't antiques, Dr. Murray said. "And the county airports around Ohio didn't exist and wouldn't be built for another 70 years or so."
The fact that they are flying in antiques adds to the charm of the adventure, Dr. Murray said. "It is a way to be totally immersed in something you enjoy."

Source: Joan Demirjian http://www.chagrinvalleytimes.com/NC/0/4239.html

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