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A lazy afternoon in the Vintage campground
Story and photos by Jack Hodgson
Gibbs
Doug Gibbs, center, with his grandson Alex and son Bill, in front of his 1958 Champ.
Gary Rankin
Gary Rankin President of the American Navion Society with his newly purchased 1948 Ryan Navion.

It’s a quiet afternoon in the Vintage camping area. Rows of beautiful old planes, with tents of many colors scattered among them, the occasional pilot sitting in the shade of a wing—reading or just gazing at the sky.

Doug Gibbs tells how he had a bit of an adventure getting to AirVenture Oshkosh 2011.

“It was terrible,” he says.

Like so many others, he had to pick his way between thunderstorms blocking the way into Wittman Field from his home in Blacklick, Ohio.

“Twenty-five, 30-mph headwinds all the way through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois.”

Then he had to wait two hours at Dwight, Illinois, for a cell to travel right across the path he intended to fly.

“It was actually a cold front coming through so I waited ‘til that went through.”

The unscheduled landing in Dwight turned out to be a charming aviation diversion.

“It was interesting,” says Gibbs. “It’s owned by a farmer, and he had a farm across the road. He had a little four wheeler that he ran back and forth ‘tween his house and the office at the strip.

“He was very accommodating. He’s been there operating that airport since the early ’60s.”

After that Dwight said he was able to continue on into Oshkosh.

“I called at Fond du Lac and said, ‘abeam Fond du Lac landing Oshkosh.’ He replied, ‘call five miles out, straight in for 36.’”

Doug has been coming to the Oshkosh Fly-in since 1980, but he didn’t get his pilot’s certificate until 1999.

“I flew up for the first time in 2001, which was one of my life long desires, to fly into Oshkosh.”

A champ of a Champ…
Doug’s airplane is a 1958 Champion Aircraft Champ. He likes telling its history.

“It was originally a 7SC Tri-gear Tri-traveler.

“In its early life it served with aero clubs at McDill Air Force Base and Eglin Air Force Base. Then it went through a series of owners, and it evidently got looped or it got damaged, and it ended up a basket case. It was in that condition for seven to eight years.

“Then the guy that rebuilt it most recently got it.”

It was finally completed in 1996; Doug bought it a couple years later and used it for his private pilot training.

All these years of attending the fly-in has given Doug an interesting perspective:

“When I think about Oshkosh I think about the weather. Cause you’re always concerned about it getting here, you’re concerned about it getting home, and you’re concerned about it while you’re here.”

Gary Rankin is from Camas, Washington. His 1948 Navion is based in Grove Field.

Gary makes Grove sounds like a terrific grassroots airport.

“A lot of community there,” he says.

“We have a good local group that we call the ‘Camas Washougal Aviation Association.’ We’ve got probably 100 members, and we have a program for scholarships for kids that are going to college, and we do a summer camp for future young pilots, hopefully.

“They come up and we start that at about age 12. There’s a monthly meeting, and of course every day that the weather’s good there’s a hangar door that’s open, and a bunch of chairs.

“A lot of that goes on.”

This is Gary’s fourth time to AirVenture in five years.

Gary’s only owned his Navion about 10 days.

“I’ve known the owner for a long time. He was 86 years old and it was just time to give it up. It had some goodies in it that I kind of wanted, and so I made him an offer, and he made me a good price.

“It was in Long Beach, California, and I flew it home a week ago Tuesday, and headed out this direction on Thursday.”

One Navion, two Navion…
Thing is, this one is not Gary’s only Navion; he owns two others.

What’s the appeal?

“For me it’s the nostalgia that it was designed by North American after the war, and it’s a good flying airplane, good and solid. If you put some horsepower in it then you can really get out and move with them.

“And that’s one of the reasons I bought this one—’cause it has the 300-horse motor in it.”

Gary is such a lover of the Navion that he serves as the president of the American Navion Society. The society has many member services, such as next year’s annual owners’ convention, next year in Bardstown, Kentucky, and a replacement parts operation.

Gary has been flying since 1963. “I soloed in ‘63 and got my ticket in ‘71.”

Gary does most of his flying in hops around his home area.

“This is one of my longer trips, this and the convention. It’s mostly day trips for two to three hours. We’re not too far from the San Juan Islands so that’s a good trip to go up and enjoy lunch on a nice day in the San Juans.”

Gary Rankin President of the American Navion Society with his newly purchased 1948 Ryan Navion.

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