Photo by Jack
Phillip Fox on a rainy morning at AirVenture with his 1968 Cessna
Photo by Jack
Billy & Jana Copeland of Paris, Texas with their E-Model
Cessna L-19 Bird Dog.
31, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - It seems a while since we’ve
had a solid rainy day at AirVenture, but that changed Thursday. Light,
occasional heavy rain fell through most of the morning, chasing attendees
into the Forums and Exhibit buildings, and under wings or whatever cover
they could find.
We did find a few hardy souls out tending
their airplanes, oblivious to the wet weather.
Phillip Fox was in the Warbirds Liaison
& Observation area putting the cover back onto his 1968 Cessna
O-2A. Phillip is from Huntsville, Alabama. He’s been to the fly-in five
times since 1999, the year he got his pilot’s certificate. His home
airport is Madison County Executive (MDQ).
For him, one of the highlights of coming to
Oshkosh is participating in the formation clinic, where pilots learn the
procedures and risks of flying joined up with others.
He’s also happy to see all the Trojans.
“This year having so many T-28s for the 60th
anniversary—that’s a great outpouring,” he said.
Not surprisingly he knows a lot about the past
of his historic airplane.
“It’s a ’68 Cessna 0-2A, delivered to
the air force in Vietnam in 1969. It served with the 21st Tactical Air
Squadron out of Cam Ranh Bay. It was decommissioned and stricken from the
air force records in 1975. It was with U.S. Customs for 10 years, and
it’s been bouncing around the civilian market since then.”
He bought it about a year ago, and he likes it
because it’s a “functional warbird.”
“It’s a true warbird, it has four bullet
holes in the wings,” he smiles. “But it also allows the wife and the
two kids to travel.”
Billy and Jana Copeland are staying dry
under the wing of their 1962 Cessna L-19 Bird Dog.
Like so many of the warbirds here at
AirVenture, the Copeland’s plane has a fascinating past.
“It’s one of the last 50 built,” says
Billy. “It’s an E model, built in Wichita, Kansas.
“It went directly to Italy on the military
assistance program. It never was certified in the United States; it went
straight to Italy and did its service over there.”
While in Italy the aircraft was cannibalized
for spare parts. Then a member of the U.S. American military bought and
shipped it back to the United States.
“It kind of bummed all over the states on
the East Coast,” Billy said, “and finally wound up in Texas. And I got
a hold of it and I restored it.”
Jana showed us a photo album of the aircraft
before and during restoration. Just the fuselage without any wings, doors
Billy spent a year working in his spare time
to restore the plane to its current airworthy state. Billy and Jona are
from Paris, Texas, and they have their own private runway.
“We have about 300 acres there. We’ve got
a strip, and a hangar, and all that. It’s a little bit of paradise there
In addition to the Bird Dog, Billy has built
two RVs, a -6 and an -8. And he restored a Cessna.
“I took a Cessna 180 out of a barn and I
rebuilt it, and brought it up here. So I’m sort of a hobbyist on these
“But the Bird Dog has been in the family for
about 6 years.”
Billy flies the L-19 as part of the warbirds
show here at AirVenture.
What’s it like to fly up there among all
those planes crisscrossing?
“The beehive! You’re talking about the
beehive,” he laughs.
“Well, we’ve got our set altitudes, and
we’ve got to stay in it. So we’re concentrating on our altitude, and
if everybody is just doing their job, it’s completely safe. I have no
worries at Oshkosh.”
They flew into Oshkosh this year on Thursday
before the opening. On the way north they came across members of the group
of Cessna 150s also on their way here.
“We got to talking to a couple of people,”
says Jana, “first on the radio, and then on the ground. We ended up
meeting them at one of the airports, and hung out together.
“We’ve been bumming around with them all
week. That’s kinda neat.”