North Carolina Newspapers is powered by Chronam.
6The Daily Tar Heel Thursday, November 19, 1987
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Line Serviceman Matt Sullivan scans the sky above the airfield for approaching air traffic
By JULIE BRASWELL
The ear-filling roar of the airplane's
engine halts our conversation. The
propellers become blurs of motion.
James turns the wheels of the plane
onto the paved runway. Gaining
momentum on that one-way road to
the air, he lifts the plane into the
sky, leaving the ground disappearing
James smiles the smile of
someone who has flown many times
but who never quite loses the thrill
of a good take-off.
There is a little of the Wright
brothers in many of us a secret
desire to take to the controls of an
airplane, taxi it down an airstrip
somewhere and nose it up into the
sky for a ride.
Some people who love to fly make
it their profession and become pilots.
But many of Chapel Hill's avid
aviators are already busy as faculty
members or full-time students at the
Horace Williams Airport, a Univer
sity owned and operated airport, has
about 50 small airplanes filling its
hangars. About seven of those are
owned by University professors. Ten
of them are leased by the Chapel Hill
Flying Club, a 150-member organi
zation that includes about 50 stu
dents in its membership.
"Id go out of my way to fly." says
Gary Gambrell. a graduate business
major. Gambrell often packs some
fishing gear, calls up some friends and
heads off in a plane to the Outer
Banks for a one-day trip.
"It's beautiful at the Outer Banks."
he says. "There is really nothing there
where the airstrip is except the ocean.
The airstrip is the only piece of
Gambrell used to watch the planes
take off and land at his hometown
airport. Three years ago. Gambrell
stopped watching the planes and
started flying them. Now he is an
officer of the Chapel Hill Flying Club,
a non-profit club that rents planes
and instructs would-be pilots.
This airplane is down for the night at Horace Williams airport in Chapel Hill
Tar Heel file photo
The Daily Tar HeelThursday, November 19, 19877
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"I remember the first solo flight
I took it was a real calming
' sensation," he says. "Everything has
to be done right up there. When I
got out of the plane, my feet hit the
ground, my knees buckled and I fell
to t' ground. It was great."
" James Brown, a senior geography
major, fell in love with planes at age
five. His father brought home a model
airplane for his son to put together.
During his childhood. Brown put
together about 300 model planes. At
age 15. real airplanes became his
To receive the first pilot certifica
tion, a private pilot's license. Brown
was required to spend 40 hours of
dual and solo instruction in the air.
He also had ground school instruction
to complete the course.
Flying lessons cost about $10 to
$ 1 2 an hour. This fee does not include
aircraft rentals, which can cost up to
$30. depending on the type of planes
used. Student pilots must also
purchase textbooks and flight
"It's an expensive hobby." Brown
says. "If you can get over the initial
hump of money, then it is really
Brown has been flying about seven
years. He considers planes safer than
cars and prefers an airplane as his
means of getting from one place to
"Small airplanes are very safe, you
just have to pay a lot of attention,"
he says. "You can't just park it
anywhere. I m always looking for a
possible place to land. You need an
'ace in the hole.' "
Dawn Hurst started flying two
years ago. Hurst calls her family a
"flying family" because both her 18-year-old
sister and her father also fly.
"My dad was really happy when my
sister and I learned to fly." Hurst says.
"It's really a unique hobby. It would
be neat to fly to my class reunion."
Hurst took ground school lessons
one winter during high school, then
completed the training the next
spring. After receiving her pilot's
license, she now flies to many North
"You feel so free up there." she
says. "When you're a passenger, you
can relax. But when you're the pilot,
you have to always be checking out
everything around you."
Spotting landmarks below her was
the trickiest part of learning to fly,
Hurst says. When she learned the
distinguishing features of the land
below, she knew it was worth all of
the hours spent in the air.
Brian Gallagher says he would fly
in a heartbeat. Gallagher. 25. took
up flying while he was away from
school. He has returned to school to
study speech, but he still finds time
to fly on the weekends and some
"I'm trying to balance classes and
flying." he says. "It is really important
that pilots keep current in flying. You
can't just fly once a month. That's
what gives general aviation pilots a
Gallagher has taken airplane trips
to Pittsburgh. Atlanta and Washing
ton, D.C. Like Gambrell. he enjoys the
Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island. The
peacefulness on a North Carolina
island with only an airstrip and an
ocean is hard to top anywhere else,
After teaching college students all
week, some professors get away from
the campus by winging away from
the Chapel Hill area.
Peter Calingaert, a professor in the
computer science department,
started flying in 1953. He uses his
hobby to take him to professional
lectures and meetings and on per
"I flew to my college reunion in
Philadelphia this summer," Calin
gaert says. "I also flew to Newfound
land in July with family and friends.
So, I have a variety of uses for the
He rents an airplane from the
Chapel Hill Flying Club., of which he
is a member. He once owned two
planes but has now decided that
renting a plane is more economical
for his uses.
"The economics of plane ownership
are such that it's a big price to even
get the plane at all." he says. "Then
you have the upkeep and fuel and
Russell Christman, who teaches in
the department of environmental
science, uses his plane to take him
to a program that he teaches in
Hickory on Fridays.
"I wouldn't call my flying a hobby
because all the travel in my plane is
for work purposes," Christman says."
He flies to professional society
meetings, seminars and other events
related to his profession.
He has traveled by plane at least
once to all of the states in the United
States. Just during the month of
August, he flew to Tampa. Denver.
Savannah, Kansas City and Orlando.
Even though the trips have been
related to his profession. Christman
loves the opportunity to fly.
"1 fly because I love it." he says.
"It's a great sense of adventure. It
brings my soul a little higher."
Christman's next long flight will be
next summer when he and a friend
fly to Europe. His friend, a former
University professor who is now at
Kansas State University, also shares
the plane with him. '
"We have common interests and
we use the plane much more than
average." he says. "There is no way
I could own a plane without a partner
to share costs."
Whatever motivates flying enthu
siasts to wing it into the sky. all of
them find pleasure in their hobby.
"I just love it. 1 wouldn't trade it
for anything," Brown says. "There is
something new about the process
every time you take off."
. In a world of cold, commercial
flights filled with hundreds of
strangers who simply share the same
destination, a journey in a four-seater
with friends or family on board is,
well, almost cozy.
James Brown inspects the plane's cargo compartment
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James Brown examines the aircraft's nosegear during a pre-f light inspection DTHDavid Minton