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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedAdmiring O-birds on a rainy morning in Oshkosh
By Jack Hodgson, EAA AirVenture Today


Photo by Jack Hodgson
Phillip Fox on a rainy morning at AirVenture with his 1968 Cessna 0-2A.

Photo by Jack Hodgson
Billy & Jana Copeland of Paris, Texas with their E-Model Cessna L-19 Bird Dog.

July 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 or engine.

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 Texas.”

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 things.

“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.”

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