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An EAA chapter vice president, and a schoolteacher firebomber
Bob Christensen
Bob Christensen and his 1960 PA22 (photo by Jack Hodgson)
Shahar Golan
Shahar Golan camping under the wing of their 1958 Cessna 175. (photo by Jack Hodgson)

By Jack Hodgson

July 30, 2013 - Bob Christensen has been receiving a steady stream of visitors beside his 1960 Tri-Pacer. But during a quiet moment we spent a few minutes with him.

He's from Ashton, Idaho, and lives among some pretty spectacular scenery. "Southeastern Idaho. I'm 50 miles south of Yellowstone, and 60 miles west of Jackson Hole."

His home airport is Rexburg-Madison County Airport (RXE). "Rexburg is small," he says. "It's a GA airport. There is a museum there. There's warbirds there."

Bob says that some of Rexburg's warbirds come here to AirVenture, and that Bob Hoover's old P-51 is part of a private collection.

"Usually on Saturday morning," he says, "there's kind of a little air show there just 'cause they're out there burning lots of gas."

Bob's owned the 1960 PA22 Tri-Pacer for 14 years. "Originally it had a 150-horse engine," he says, "but that got a little tired so I've had a 160 built up and put in." He also had the prop reworked for a better climb. "So it works pretty good."

Bob just retired from a career as a schoolteacher. During that time he worked part time as a pilot. Twenty seasons flying firefighting aircraft, and 22 years in a FedEx caravan.

Flying during fire season is a particular kind of life. "With the fires you're a nomad. You kinda follow the season around. The airplanes would be based in a particular area, but if you're needed then you're gonna go. You go to work one day, and you might not come home for two or three weeks."

This is only Bob's eighth or ninth time to EAA Oshkosh. "I didn't start 'til, like, 10 years ago. I didn't realize what I'd been missing. I finally bit the bullet. One of my sons and I came out. And I've been coming ever since.

"Over the years there's a bunch of us short-wing guys who camp here. So we meet here every year to abuse each other. It's a lot of fun."

Shahar Golan and his son Roi are originally from Israel but they now live near Detroit. They fly their family 1958 Cessna 175 out of Mettetal Airport (1D2).

They made the flight to Oshkosh on Sunday, when lots of people were reporting a pretty bumpy ride. "We flew on the east side of Chicago. It was beautiful. But it was very bumpy. A little bit uncomfortable, but we made it."

Shahar is the vice president of his EAA chapter at Mettetal. EAA 113 has about 100 members. They hold multiple meetings throughout the month, one every Thursday evening, each focusing on a different theme or speaker. And on some Saturday mornings they'll host a pancake breakfast.

The Cessna 175, which he bought two years ago, is very unique. "You don't see many like this still flying," he says.

"Every airport when I land you can see people coming over and ask questions because it's different. It has a straight tail, which is unique for this type of airplane. And it's larger than the 172. It's Cessna so it's very stable, very safe."

He bought the 175 on eBay. "I offered $24,000, and in the end I won for $18,700. We've spent a lot of money on the airplane to fix and maintain it. I'm a mechanical engineer, and I have a friend who is an A&P, so together we worked on the airplane. It's fun."

They're on the lookout for a project plane. "My son is thinking maybe about a Sonex. We have a friend who built a Sonex. So we will see."

Shahar's son, Roi (ROW-ee), is 13 years old and enters eighth grade in the fall. He hasn't really started flight training yet, but he has a few hours logged.

This is Roi's second time to AirVenture. He flew in with his dad last year.

Although Shahar has been coming to the fly-in since 2008, this is his second year flying in. He has vivid memories of the first time, last year.

"It was amazing. First of all I was very nervous, because with the NOTAM and the procedures, it was a little bit nervous time. Compared to this year, when I understood all the methods and the procedures, it's so easy and it makes sense.

"But I remember the first year. It's like coming to heaven. With my own airplane, coming here, and camping under the wing, it's like, oh mama!"

Enjoy "Around the Field" all year long at www.AroundTheField.net.

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