Editor’s note: The Kansan asked its readers to send us their stories about being pilots. Here are their adventures from the sky:

This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 edition of the Kansan.

Editor’s note: The Kansan asked its readers to send us their stories about being pilots. Here are their adventures from the sky:

Amusement park rides aren’t even this fun

My interest in flying airplanes comes from my dad.

After earning his private pilot licenses, we have spent many hours flying together.

At first, my hands griped the controls tightly in fear. Only after the third flight did I become at ease — and I was hooked.

It all started a few years ago when dad bought me a radio-control airplane.

We were introduced to the Newton Area R/C Club, where I started taking flight lessons. The club members are helpful and friendly.

I’m a student pilot working toward my private license. Most of my flying has been in our Piper Tomahawk, but I’ve also taken tail wheel instruction in a Decathlon.

The Decathlon can do aerobatics, as in rolls, loops, spins and flying adverted (upside down).

No amusement park ride can ever come close to flying aerobatics.

Best of all, my stomach was still with me after the flight — just in a different location!

We have the best seat in town to watch the sunset followed by the city lights.

But the best part is coming back to our Newton City/County Airport at night, landing with the runway lights on.

— Anthony Ehlers,


senior at Halstead High School

Rare WWII plane

being restored

at Newton airport

During World War II, Curtiss Airplane Corp. designed and built about 9,000 divebombers known as the SB2C Helldiver.

This big, single-engine, five-ton airplane was credited for sinking more enemy ships than any other plane.

It was normally flown from Navy carriers and could sustain much damage and remain aloft.

After the war, there was little use for such an aircraft, and most were scrapped.

There is only one flying example of the SB2C Helldiver in the world, and that plane was in Newton on Aug. 3 and 4.

It flew into Newton for fuel and to witness a very rare and awesome undertaking.

Another Helldiver, which crashed into a West Virginia forest in 1945, is being painstakingly restored to like-new flying condition by a group of local aircraft craftsmen.

Any part that can be salvaged from the wreck is removed, disassembled, cleaned, checked and reconditioned to like-new condition.

Any missing, severely damaged or corroded parts are fabricated with new material from the original Curtiss blueprints obtained from the National Air and Space Museum.

There are more than 11,000 prints, with an average of three parts per print.

Basically, a brand new, 1945 Curtiss Helldiver is being reborn, part by part, at the Newton City/County Airport.

Who could have guessed this is going on here in Newton?

This same crew won top honors (Best of the Best) in 2007 at the huge airshow event in Oshkosh, Wis., with another restored airplane.

They are known as the Warbird Division of Wichita Air Service Inc.

— Mike Hanchett,


It’s true: The Earth

really is round

I have witnessed that the world is indeed round.

In a previous career, I had the opportunity to co-pilot a state-of-the-art business jet and, while delivering the aircraft to its new owner in Las Vegas, the pilot and I agreed we should take the plane to its maximum height of 51,000 feet.

Why? Just so we could say we’d been there.

On this particular clear evening, we chased the sunset for two and a half hours, and the lights of Las Vegas were clearly visible from 200 miles away.

Looking from horizon to horizon around us, we could clearly discern the curvature of the Earth from that height. It was just one of many indelible memories flying provides that no photograph would do justice.

— T.W. Anderson, C.M., manager of the Newton City/County Airport

and Metro North Flight Support

Jumping off bunk

bed leads to career

My son, Sheldon Goerzen, has wanted to be a pilot since he was 3 years old.

His first flight was when he would jump off his bunk bed with an umbrella.

One day he came to me and asked if he could climb on the roof of the house and jump with an umbrella.

After carefully explaining to a 5-year-old umbrellas won’t help you fly, he began with other tactics.

Sheldon would bring a big piece of cardboard and use old tube socks to tie them to his arms.

However, try as he might, not any amount of flapping his arms would lift him off the ground. Birthdays and Christmas were filled with any kind of airplane we could find.

When Sheldon was 5, I began working at the aviation department with Hesston College. Sheldon had several opportunities to go along with instructors on flights. He loved to be up in the air.

After he started elementary school, his artwork would be filled with flying pictures and, whenever asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, he always said he wanted to be a pilot.

One teacher asked the students to write about if they could have anything in the world, what would it be. Sheldon said “wings.”

On several occasions he told me he wished he was a bird so he could fly.

At age 12, Sheldon got his first taste of being at the controls of an airplane. For Christmas, he got a radio-controlled airplane and took lessons from Tom Lazwell of Newton and spent many Saturdays at the runway flying his airplane.

Sheldon graduated from Goessel High School in 2007 and decided he wanted to pursue his dreams of being a pilot and decided to go to Hesston College and enroll in the aviation program.

He flew with his instructor and, on Sept. 28, 2007, went on his first solo flight. The very same place Sheldon took his first flight at the age of 3, he also flew solo 15 years later.

I am so proud of Sheldon for pursuing his dreams. He has worked very hard and is continuing to work hard in getting his instrument and commercial ratings.

Who knows, Sheldon may be in the cockpit of your next flight.

— Wendy Goerzen,


Trip to New York

a great adventure

I got my pilot’s license in 1968. I didn’t have a commercial license, but for 12 years I delivered new Cessna aircrafts all over the country.

Because I wasn’t a commercial pilot, I couldn’t collect a wage, but Cessna paid expenses.

One time, I called Cessna because I wanted to take a trip, and they had a brand, spanking new Cessna 172 Skyhawk that needed delivered to New York City.

A lady friend, Joyce Prickett from Hutchinson, and I loaded up in the plane and headed out.

We landed about midnight in Johnstown, Pa. The next morning, Sunday, we got up and took off again.

We flew about 7,000 feet about sea level, because that was within the imaginary zone reserved for private pilots.

I wanted to take pictures, so I asked my lady friend to hold the wheel and look out for planes.

She asked why she needed to look out for planes, because shouldn’t other pilots be looking out for us?

I told her the idiot pilot might be hanging out a window taking pictures.

We did come across some sky-typers — people using planes to write advertising messages in the sky.

I had a tiny opening in the window where I could stick my camera out, so I would tilt the plane and take pictures.

We flew over the Statue of Liberty, over the East River, circled Manhattan Island, and went back down the Hudson, all about 1.5 miles above the ground.

— James Dawson,


Woman gets pilot’s

license at age 52

People remember Virginia Coleman mostly for the brilliant musical talent she shared so generously throughout the community, but she also was a licensed private pilot.

Virginia and Jean coerced most of the United States in their Cessna 182 Skylane in 10 years with Jean, the pilot in command, and Virginia as co-pilot/navigator.

According to Jean, Virginia demonstrated navigation to perfection. Before they left on a trip, Virginia had studied the aeronautical charts, plotted the course and noted the checkpoints she wanted to confirm.

As co-pilot, she needed to take over the controls only once. They were en route to Hilton Head when Jean had a sudden onset of vertigo, pushed his seat back and motioned to Virginia he had a problem.

She calmly pulled her seat forward, took the controls and flew the aircraft until Jean recovered. Then, they resumed their normal positions and nothing was said.

Virginia had no desire to fly an airplane. However, when Jean had earned his pilot’s license, he persuaded her to enroll in ground school to become familiar with the fundamentals of flying. She agreed to take the ground course with the understanding that, “I’m not going to fly an airplane.” She completed the ground school course and passed the FHA exam in Wichita with a perfect score.

With the encouragement of the base operator at the Newton airport and Jean’s insistence, she agreed to take a few flying lessons, as she declared, “I’m not going to fly alone.”

When the instructor determined Virginia was capable of flying solo, she agreed to do that, declaring, “I will never leave the flight pattern of this airport.”

Some time later, when Virginia and Jean were planning a trip to their cabin near Colorado Springs, Colo., they agreed she should get her pilot’s license for added safety.

That required her to make three cross-country flights. She flew to Hutchinson, Topeka and a western Kansas town, had her log book signed and waited for the FHA examiner to take a check ride with her.

He certified her, and she became a licensed private pilot in 1969 at age 52.

— Jean Coleman,


Joking pilot tastes

his own medicine

My instructor, I was told by another instructor, had a bad habit that needed to be stopped.

He carried aloft, in his cockpit, a spare control stick unknown by his student.

When he thought his student was able to fly the airplane solo, he picked up his spare stick, waved it around and tossed it overboard.

Then he would tell his student to land the plane.

His students, so far, had landed the plane OK. I was informed a spare control stick had been placed in my cockpit, and I was to pick it up ad wave it around and throw it overboard.

Sure enough, as soon as we had been up a short time, my instructor threw his stick overboard and told me to land the plane.

I threw my stick overboard.

He immediately climbed out of his cockpit and jumped into space. I saw his parachute open.

I flew back to the field and landed.

I never saw my instructor again.

— Floyd F. Darrow,