Local Pilots Think About 100 Years Of Aviation

Chris Loepke sat in the cockpit of his Cessna 152. "Clear," he yelled out the window, just seconds before he started the propeller.

The pilot was just 22 years old. Yet he was an aviation veteran. "My dad, he's been a pilot for over 20 years," Loepke said. "Just flying around locally with him, I enjoyed it so much. When I became 13, he started giving me lessons and just from there, it started to take off."

Loepke's plane taxied toward the runway. "It feels great," he said of flying. "It's almost like a freedom you don't have on the ground. Just being able to move like that up in the air. It's a good feeling."

A century ago, the Wright Brothers soared for the first time. They paved the way for Loepke, and aviation instructor Clay Burnside to live their dreams. "I don't want to sound too spiritual here, but it just seems right," Burnside said, standing near the wing of a Cessna plane.

Much of Burnside's work is done thousands of feet above South Mississippi, where birds soar, and people look very small. "It's good to wake up in the morning and be thrilled to death that you're going to work," he said.

Back up in the sky, Chris Loepke prepared to land. He looked around at the blue skies, and marveled at his job. "Not many people get to do it," he said. "It's just fun being up there."

So on this 100 year anniversary of flight, the pilots wanted to say thank you to Orville and Wilbur Wright. "Without them, we would still be horses and buggies, I suppose," Burnside laughed. "We wouldn't be flying."