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“Historic memories, and the family van”
Story and photos by Jack Hodgson

Les Bryan and his 1948 Cessna 140

Les Bryan is sitting in the Vintage campgrounds under the wing of his beautiful 1948 Cessna 140. It’s days before the official start of AirVenture 2010, and Les has already been here for a while, arriving before weather made grass camping problematic.

Les is from Evansville, Indiana, and is not a newcomer to the fly-in. This is his 32nd year.

Les urges us to take advantage of the AirVenture experience—to not let it slip by.
“I was here the first time the Concorde came, and I was standing in line to take a ride in it.

“I had my credit card out; it was gonna cost $400. I was gonna go Mach 2, go to Canada, drink a glass of champagne. And you know, I got halfway up the line and I thought, ‘It will be back here next year,’ so I stepped out of the line.

“The year after that it didn’t come back. And after that they came back, but it was $800. I wasn’t gonna spend $800 to go fly the Concorde.

“And now they’ve quit flying the Concorde. I can never do that again. So that’s one of the things I kind of regret not doing.”

Another great memory for Les is when he met Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager—before their record-making nonstop globe-circling flight.

“I was here when they were first doing the Voyager, and I was able to meet them. I made a donation, and I put my name in their logbook.

“My name went with them around the world,” he recalls.

“It’s kinda neat to be able to say that I had a tie-in to something as historically significant. It’s like Lindbergh and his flight to Paris.”

Les bought his 140 almost by accident. He had been flying a Champ; his instructor had the 140, which Les decided to get checked out in.

“I said, ‘This is really nice.’ And he said, ‘All right, make me an offer.’ I said, ‘All right, 7,500.’

“He didn’t say anything. Just walked away. Then about a week later he came back and said okay.

“Now what? I wasn’t serious. But I went out and borrowed as much money as I could get my hands on. And a week later I owned the airplane.”

Les flies out of Skylane Airport in Evansville, Indiana. There are about 30 planes based there.

A few years back he and the other pilots bought the airfield. “So we have a 2,000-thousand-foot grass strip. And we maintain it and take care of the place.”

Linda & Keith Doornbos, and their ‘Family Van’ Cessna 170

Keith and Linda Doornbos are from Bloomington, Illinois, and this is their 30th consecutive time to the EAA fly-in.

“For the very first time we had a Cessna 120,” says Keith, “and a very small dome tent. The two of us in a couple of sleeping bags.”

“We were just amazed at what we saw,” he remembers.

“The number of airplanes, the size of the entire convention. Just the scale of the fly-in was something. We had only been to small fly-ins, so the scale of this was really something.”

Both Keith and Linda are pilots. These days they fly here in their 1948 Cessna 170, which they’ve owned since 1983.

“It’s the family van,” says Keith. “We use it the way people would use a minivan.

“We use it to go on vacations, and just have a good time with it. We put the kids in there, and the camping gear, and go wherever we want to go.”

They fly about 75 to 100 hours per year.

One of Linda’s memories of the fly-in over the years is the change in the mix of the crowd. “There’s been more and more women and families over the years.”

They’ve brought their two kids to the fly-in for years as well. And though the kids are now grown up, they still come to the fly-in with their families.

Son Brian and daughter Laura loved the children’s activities area. They each eventually became a co-chairman of that program—first Brian and then Laura after him. Daughter Laura, now 26, has never missed an Oshkosh fly-in.

“She’s been up here every year since she was 5 weeks old,” says Linda. “Now she brings her twins to the fly-in, and they have never missed one either.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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