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Fly-in takes novices to the sky

August 6, 2012
By GARRETT NEESE - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP - Dozens of people experienced the thrill of flying in a small plane at a fly-in at the Houghton County Memorial Airport Sunday hosted by the Keweenaw chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Sunday's second annual event was designed to get children and adults interested in flying in smaller planes.

With an hour left for the fly-in, about 70 people had flown, said Craig Kimmer, coordinator for the Young Eagles.

Article Photos

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Frank Sager pilots his Beechcraft over the Keweenaw as part of the Keweenaw chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s fly-in at the Houghton County Memorial Airport Sunday. The trip included flyovers of Houghton, the Portage Entry and Calumet-Laurium area.

Five or six planes were on hand for 15-minute flights. On one flight, Frank Sager took three passengers on his Beechcraft. Sager flew south to Houghton, then came back up north along the Portage Entry and flying over Calumet and Laurium before returning to the airport.

Sunday's flights were conducted under heavy gusts of wind, which subjected the plane to unpredictable dips in the opening minutes.

Sager climbed to 2,000 feet above sea level, or about 1,000 feet above the ground.

"I went up to 3,500 on the last flight and it wasn't any less bumpy," he said.

After the early going, things smoothed out considerably. Sager pointed out highlights from the air - including his alma mater of Calumet High School.

"It's about three times the size it was when I was there," he said.

Sager successfully battled some last-minute gusts on the descent for a smooth landing.

"As they used to say in the Air Force, we successfully defied death again," he said.

Two of the passengers, Noel Jackson and Courtenay Wood of Evanston, Ill., were in town because their 6 a.m. flight from the airport was cancelled.

When they saw a flyer advertising the event, they had the same reaction: "Why not?"

"It was a great experience," Jackson said. "We thought it was going to be much bumpier than it was, but Frank did such a masterful job of getting us to the right altitude."

On the ground, Hangar 2 was filled with a variety of homebuilt planes from EAA members.

Fly-in organizer Henry Nordsiek built a plane modeled on technology of the '20s, '30s and '40s. The panels were put together with an air-driven rivet gun. The exception is on the inside, where Nordsiek had a modern electronic control panel.

Nordsiek spent about $50,000 assembling the plane, not counting the estimated 4,000 hours of labor. It can reach a cruising speed of about 175 miles per hour, though Nordsiek hasn't hit that yet.

The EAA has more stringent regulations governing the first 25 flight hours of a homemade plane, a milestone Nordsiek recently passed. Nordsiek hopes to hit 60 hours before the snow flies.

"If the weather's nice, I try to come out and fly whenever I can," he said.

Nordsiek encouraged other people interested in building the kits to contact the group.

"Three kits have been built here now, so we have experience to help people," he said.



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