By JAMISON COCKLIN
Two celebrated antique airplanes. Check.
All of Ohio’s 88 counties. Check.
A chance for a Girard native to make the storied history books of aviation: Well, that depends on the weather.
These things provide not only the colorful makings of a book and documentary, but they also lend good reason to raise money for a worthy cause.
At least that’s what Gordon Murray, 52, of Hudson, a journalism professor at Kent State University, and Ron Siwik, 72, of Chagrin Falls, a retired radiologist, have in mind.
The seasoned pilots have planned a county-by-county flight tour across Ohio. They’re billing it as the first, longest and slowest flight ever to be undertaken by two vintage aircraft.
This, they contend, is one for the record books.
Their odyssey begins May 13 when they take off from Kent State University Airport. Nine days later, if all goes according to plan, the men will land at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport.
“In all [of] the years I’ve been flying, I can’t think of a single soul who said, ‘You know, I’m thinking about flying an antique airplane consecutively to all of Ohio’s 88 counties,’” said Murray as he searched for ways to explain his plans. “This world record in Ohio is, well, probably best described as peculiar.”
Murray, who grew up in Girard, said the team expects to land at Youngstown Elser Metro Airport in North Lima about noon May 15.
Siwik and Murray have chosen two 1946 Piper J-3 Cubs to complete the flight. This decision is significant, as 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the aircraft.
First designed in 1937, the aircraft initially rolled off an assembly line in Lock Haven, Pa., in 1946. The airplanes share a special place in the hearts of flight enthusiasts because they went on to train nearly a half-million pilots during World War II.
Overall, Siwik and Murray aim to celebrate Ohio’s place in American aviation. It was during the late 1890s when Orville and Wilbur Wright began designing the first mechanized aircraft in the back room of their cycle shop on the west side of Dayton.
“The invention of the airplane is one of America’s greatest stories, and Ohio is the birthplace of aviation,” Murray said. “When you board a jet that takes you somewhere for business or vacation, you don’t even see the airplane you are riding in. The experience of traveling is remarkably different when flying in a general-aviation aircraft, and this is what I hope to write about in the book.”
Along the way, Murray and Siwik will accept donations. They hope to raise at least $500 in each county in order to collect a total of $44,000. The proceeds will help establish a scholarship for a needy Ohio family to send a child to college.
The trip will cover 1,670 miles. After departing from Kent, the two will head west along the north coast of Ohio and Lake Erie. After reaching the Ohio-Indiana state line, they’ll go east, back to Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania. At this point, they’ll turn around and fly west again.
They’ll repeat the process, Murray said. The pilots expect to spend between four and six hours airborne each day. Murray added that they’ll also visit around 11 airports each day and spend a total of 26 hours in the air over the course of two weeks.
The two-man team will be aided by a ground crew made up of students, friends and family. The group will coordinate arrivals and departures, help map the flight online, and “produce some great features for the web that will help improve the public’s understanding of general aviation,” Murray said.
The public will be able to track the flight in real time online. Everything from an itinerary to the pilot’s adventures will be documented at lostinoscarhotel.com. Information on making donations can also be obtained at the website.
Siwik is no stranger to aeronautical feats. In 2008, he flew a 24,604-mile solo flight around the world.
“I am guessing if we actually complete the flight, it will be fairly unique in the history of Ohio aviation — at least until someone else comes along to best it in some way,” Murray said. “When that happens, don’t be too surprised if it isn’t Dr. Siwik, possibly flying the entire route backward in his helicopter while singing all the verses of the Ohio State fight song for each landing.”