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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Flying club aims for the clouds

  • The world is a much different place from a few thousand feet in the air.
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  • The world is a much different place from a few thousand feet in the air.
    Rules and restrictions written for streets and highways no longer apply. Up and down are vague concepts. Going left or right means just a slight nudge of the pilot's yoke.
    Piloting an airplane is not just for people in uniform or those who dust crops for a living, and recreational flying is more than just winging from one place to another. It is the embodiment of the age-old dream of flight, which, after all, became a reality for human beings roughly a century ago.
    Area flying enthusiasts recently started a chapter of an international organization whose mission is to support and encourage aviation hobbyists.
    Michael Rogers, a professor at Northwest Missouri State University, is president of the local Experimental Aircraft Association.
    EAA began in 1953 as a group of pilots interested in building their own airplanes. It now includes hobbyists who focus on classic craft, warplanes and other flying machines.
    Rogers and members of the fledgling EAA group in Maryville all share a passion for aviation.
    "It is about flying and the freedom that comes with it," Rogers said.
    "It's the perspective you get being up in the air and being free. The group started because we recognized the need for an organization to promote aviation in this area."
    The local EAA currently has more than a dozen members but is looking to grow now that the chapter has been sanctioned.
    "There is something to be said about being part of an international organization," Rogers said, "and one of our goals is to get people that are interested in aviation but without the means involved."
    Local EAA member Kevin Rankin said there used to be another flying club in Maryville.
    "In the past, you could have up to 50 airplanes show up for meetings," Rankin said. "It would get busy with people taking flights up all afternoon."
    Rankin, who works at the Northwest Missouri Regional Airport, has been flying since 1970 and is a certified flight instructor. Coming from a family of aviators, including his father Joe, he has logged more than 13,000 flight hours.
    Rogers took up the hobby in 1983 and has just over 3,000 hours in the air. He learned to fly in graduate school. Rankin said that Rogers "should've been born a bird."
    "Every day I drove past a sign that said 'Learn to fly,'" Rogers said.
    "So one day I just pulled in there and started taking lessons.
    "That's the difference between a dabbler and a professional," Rogers said while both men chuckled. "If you want to go up or learn how to fly, he (Rankin) is your guy."
    Page 2 of 2 - Rankin gives lessons to anyone wishing to learn how to fly, but  Rogers points out that it's not a simple skill.
    "It's like learning to drive a stick shift," Rogers said. "You'll be a better driver in the end, but most people don't want to go through the extra effort."
    Rankin said the process involves much more than taking off, flying and tackling the most difficult part — landing. Being a pilot is a mindset, a way of thinking, and to an extent a lifestyle.
    "You have to be very vigilant at all times," Rankin said, "especially when you get close to an airport. The big airports tell you what to do.
    At airports like this you self-announce, and not everyone uses radio."
    Both men said that elevation plays a factor. If another plane is above or below they are easier to spot. But if the plane is roughly at the same level it can get tricky.
    That is why obtaining a pilot's license is an extensive process.
    Rogers painted the picture of teaching a teenager how to drive for the first time.
    "You think it's scary teaching in a car," Rogers said. "Think about being in an airplane 5,000 feet in the air."
    When he isn't practicing maneuvers, Rogers flies "Angel Flights." He transports people in need of specialized medical care or takes young people with disabilities to various camps.
    Other members of the local EAA the group include Rogers' wife, Jean Memkin; Rankin's wife, Debbie; Matt Baker; Ed Ensminger; Richard Houston; Bob Hull; Bill Medsker; Doug Medsker; Ron Richards; Mark Shelton; Jehd Webster; and Raymond Wilmes.
    The group meets monthly, and anyone is welcome to attend. Those interested don't need to own their own plane or have access to one, they can just "come to chat."
    EAA's next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Northwest Missouri Regional Airport west of Maryville. All meetings are open to the public. Anyone interested can contact Rankin at (660) 582-2233.
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