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A pilot's life for me

Oregon Antique and Classic Aircraft Club touches down in Prineville

by: ANNEMARIE KNEPPER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - A RV-6A kit airplane at the Prineville Airport. The kits are manufactured in Aurora.

John Sedey has always wanted to fly.
   With the Oregon Antique and Classic Aircraft Club, which landed in Prineville yesterday, he has the chance to do it.
   As a youth, Sedey enlisted in the Air Force, but World War II ended before he got in the air. He carried the dream of flying his whole life.
   "My wife and I live and love air tours," he said.
   John's wife, Roberta, took the voyage with him, though on this day she is in an air-conditioned hotel room John explained.
   The Sedeys, both of Independence, joined several other couples on the tour which began in Cottage Grove and concluded in Prineville, with stops in Gold Beach, Hoopa, Calif., and Yreka, Calif., in between.
   "Prineville is kind of the wind down," said Sedey. "At this point we disperse and go our separate ways. We'll see each other here and there, then see each other again in two years."
   A grand history
   The club has existed since the late 1930s, explained Sedey. The flyers meet every two years for a tour, and only took a break for World War II, then started up again.
   Early on, it was such a big event, the governor would greet participants.
   Marilyn Husser, also of Independence, organized the event. Both Husser and her husband are pilots.
   She said she chose Prineville as the tour's final destination because, "Prineville is marvelous."
   "Prineville has fine facilities for vagabonds like us," Sedey said. "Fine airport facilities, fine hotels and good camping facilities."
   It is called the Oregon air tour but the flyers actually go to Washington, California, and Idaho.
   Usually, there is an activity at each landing spot, said Husser. At Gold Beach, the group tried the jet boats, at Yreka they admired the old steam engine and in Prineville they are learning about the history of Crook County and central Oregon.
   In the tour's early days a town or an aviation group would host the pilots and prepare meals for the club. Over the years that has become less likely to happen.
   "More and more people work," Husser said. "Now we're more likely to rent a car and do a tour of the town and eat at restaurants."
   Though the pace of life has changed over the years, the club still welcomes visitors who can find the time to stop by.
   "We still want the public to come and view the planes and visit with us," she added.
   If they do, observers will find planes from several different eras.
   Every pilot's dream
   Sedey pointed out an orange and silver Globe Swift built around 1948.
   "It was every pilot's dream to own one," he said.
   The factory building them was doing well until a large conglomerate tried to buy it out. The plane maker did not want his planes to be a part of a big corporation so he closed down the factory and destroyed the blueprints.
   "What you see is the end of the line," Sedey said.
   Though their plane is not an antique, the Sedeys have seen a lot in their brown and white Piper Arrow. The side boasts stickers from the Oregon Trail air tour, Lewis and Clark air tour and Old Applegate air tour. John has owned this plane 23 years and flew it here.
   Several of the planes on display are "kit" planes, like the RV-6A. The kits for this brand are manufactured in Aurora.
   There are 4,500 RV aircraft currently flying.
   The kits are sheet metal and rivets. On average, hobbyists take three years to build one.
   Jim Hubele bought his already built.
   The retired TWA pilot and his wife Kathy participate in the Oregon Antique and Classic Aircraft Club each tour.
   Hubele takes aerial photographs from his plane as a hobby.
   "I got a little camera hole in the belly of the plane," he said, showing photographs of of his home airport in Independence.
   His plane, built in 1998, is capable of 200 miles per hour and requires minimal runway for take off and landing.
   Kathy calls the plane "Scoots" because of its subtle speed.
   "Other planes will take off before us and we'll get here before them," she said with a smile.
   Though Jim and Kathy will by flying home tonight to see their grandchildren, many flyers will continue to tour informally.
   "We're from all over Oregon," Sedey said. "We just love to fly."