• Last modified 999 days ago (Sept. 3, 2020)


Pilots undaunted by weather

Staff writer

The threat of bad weather couldn’t keep 14 aviation enthusiasts from flying into Marion airport to admire cool planes and eat Terry Chizek’s barbecue.

Most of the pilots gathered near the runway admitted they were there for the feast.

“Did you see the food?” said Daniel Wild of Manhattan. “He has been smoking food for two days.”

Wild, who has attended the annual fly-in for 14 years, camped in a pup tent near his KitFox aircraft.

He would also help himself to smoked pulled pork, brisket and pork loin Chizek laid out on a table in the airport hangar.

Area storms kept a few people who planned to attend away this weekend, but Chizek said the fly-in has been a great network for area pilots.

“Some of the people who come out here we only see once or twice a year,” he said.

Jeremy Gorman, Chapman, who has been a pilot since he was 18, was one of four pilots to pitch a tent in the grass. He bought his Piper Cherokee to fly.

The sky threatened rain, but Gorman said campers at the fly-in have always taken the weather in stride.

“We expect it,” he said. “Every year we come down here the weather’s perfect until the middle of the night and then it just pours. That’s kind of been par for the course,” he said.

Pilots wandered over to admire experimental aircraft parked on the runway.

Roger Baalman, an aviation maintenance technician with American Airlines in Tulsa, Oklahoma, flew a KR-25 that won the Bronze Lindy at last year’s EAA AirVenture Aircraft awards in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The homebuilt plane was the dream project of a decade.

“I just always wanted to build a taildragger,” he said of his aircraft. “And this is one I could afford to build.”

Flying an aircraft you craft yourself is scary and thrilling, he said.

“The first time I was nervous, but I was sick of doing taxi tests,” he said.

Baalman took to the sky and circled the single-engine two-seater five times to prove it would stay in the air — and took off for 45 minutes.

“It was a rush,” he said.

He was so thrilled he left his wife near the runway without telling her where he was going.

“She wasn’t ready for me to take off, and then I just took off,” he said sheepishly. “She got concerned.”

Rob Schmitt, an engineer who runs his own company in Kansas City, has a plane very much like Baalman’s but left it at home.

The retired army officer is working on a Wittman Tailwind because he wants a bigger plane.

Building an aircraft is cheaper that buying one.

“If you build it yourself, you get to decide what’s in it — and it’s a lot less that owning one of those,” he said pointing to a plane that was taxing down the runway.

The new high-wing will handle cross-country travel and have room for luggage when he finishes it.

“So that’s what I’m doing now,” Schmitt said. “That’s what I am building next.”

Last modified Sept. 3, 2020