A dream rebuilt – Pilot salvages vintage aircraft from the junkyard
He steered the big yellow bird westward, into the golden rays of the setting sun.
The 50-year-old plane bellowed over the Nevada County Airport runway below before circling around and disappearing behind a stand of pine trees.
At the stick was a 60-year-old who never quite realized a dream of flying for his country, a guy who tinkered with model airplanes as a child, always looking to the sky.
“They didn’t want me,” said pilot Allan Krosner, who came of military age between the Korean and Vietnam wars, “so I went out and got my own damn plane.”
Flying Wednesday through a patchy sky, Krosner directed the 7,000-pound T-28 Navy training craft through a loop before touching down, the plane dwarfing a single-engine biplane and a second small plane inside his covered hangar.
In Nevada County, there are the weekend warriors with single-engine Cessnas who take off Saturday mornings for the Sierra Buttes, others who fly for business trips, and others still like Krosner who simply enjoy the thrill of restoring and flying aircraft once used to protect our skies.
Nearly 15 years ago, Krosner purchased a sibling of a plane used by Navy pilots training to land on aircraft carriers.
The T-28B, a two-seater, was built by North American Aviation. The hulking plane is capable of reaching 325 mph and is powered by a 1,425-horsepower engine.
Krosner stripped the red-and-white exterior, replacing it with a bright canary finish redolent of the original factory colors. Much of the plane, however, is as it was when the military used it.
In the 1950s, the plane helped train Navy pilots, and it was later adopted by the Marine Corps and the Air Force.
Krosner never flew for the armed forces. But since he was a young boy, he always dreamed of living life in the air. He began flying gliders at 20, traveling above the clouds and winging it to Earth without so much as a plastic propeller to keep him afloat.
A decade later, Krosner flew a glider 30,000 feet over the Tehachapi Pass east of Bakersfield into a 100-mph wind. He couldn’t see the airport, either.
“It was fun,” Krosner shrugged.
Krosner has also flown aerobatic planes, and now enjoys formation flying, not unlike the style incorporated by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels.
Krosner moved from Los Angeles to Grass Valley when his employer, TDK, moved a branch to offices in Nevada City. His engineering background, he said, helps when navigating the original controls on the vintage 1954 aircraft.
Krosner flies what’s known as experimental aircraft, or planes not designed for commercial use. Krosner has flown the T-28 all over the Western United States.
The plane, believed to be one of roughly 150 still in operation, has been a star attraction at the annual Oshkosh Fly-In that draws thousands of aviators each summer.
Krosner, an old bird of the skies, has some advice for new birds hoping to take to the air.
“People spend a lot of money, and a lot of time on (learning to fly), and then they drop it, because they don’t have a enough money to continue it,” he said.
“I have no use for an airplane as a mode of transportation,” he added. “What you have to ask yourself is, what are you going to do with your skills?”
It’s advisable, he said, to know what you want to fly before embarking on a lengthy schedule of lessons.
Admittedly, it took a while for Krosner to find his calling. He even tried racing motorcycles near the Mojave Desert before he decided to stick to the air.
For Krosner, whose dreams of flight began as a child, the rumble of the T-28 is enough to quicken his heart and keep his head in the clouds.
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