Local pilot traverses nation with wife
“Right now, we’re talking to the world,” 81-year-old pilot Harold Wolfe said as he announced his landing at the Nevada County Airport on a recent sunny afternoon.
That sense of open horizons and limitless possibilities has fueled a lifelong passion for flying in the man who has been flying for 60 years and who lives in a house that lets him view the runway from his living room.
“I was in love with airplanes before I could even remember,” Wolfe said, scanning the small runway for incoming planes. “I used to make model after model of airplanes when I grew up.
Wolfe and his wife, Pat Wolfe, recently returned from a 23-day journey, covering 10 states, 25 airports, a total of 28 takeoffs and landings and approximately 3,800 nautical miles or about 4,400 conventional miles ” taken in their small, two-person Cessna 152 II.
“For us, this is an escape,” said Pat Wolfe, a retired nurse. She and Harold Wolfe have been married 51 years.
Harold Wolfe had wanted to fly to the eastern side of Illinois and land again on the same three airports that he used during his flight training approximately 60 years ago.
“The O’Neal Airport … is the same one I used for my flight training and my first solo flight,” said Harold Wolfe, inspecting the wings of his small white and orange plane. “It still has an unpaved sod turf.”
But as the couple planned its trip, it soon became apparent that its aeronautic adventure should include additional destinations to visit family, Harold Wolfe’s hometown in Vincennes, Ind., his college campus in Ames, Iowa, and Pat Wolfe’s hometown in Wesley, Iowa.
“We have six kids, and they’re scattered everywhere,” Pat Wolfe said.
They left the Nevada County Airport early May 18. Each day’s journey began at approximately 6 a.m. and did not exceed more than about five hours of flight time each day.
“The temperature in the morning is cooler, so there’s less turbulence,” Harold Wolfe said. “My plane burns about five gallons of fuel per hour, so we never flew over three hours straight. It’s a rule in flying that you plan at least 45 minutes of fuel reserve.”
They followed Interstate 80 heading east, their luggage stacked as high as the seats in the little plane.
“What was so incredible about our trip was the scenery kept changing,” Pat Wolfe said. “We took over 700 photos.”
The Wolfes returned at roughly 10:20 a.m. June 9.
“When we came in, everyone was saying, ‘Welcome home, Harold,’ and then, out of the blue, I heard ‘Welcome home, Harold. I’m 16,000 feet over your aircraft,'” the accomplished pilot said. “It turned out to be a commercial airline.”
As a young man, Wolfe had dreamed of flying for the military, but because of his vision, Wolfe was denied entrance.
Decades later, after celebrating his 80th birthday, he joined an organization called U.F.O.
“It stands for Unified Flying Octogenarians, and the only requirement is that you’ve flown either on or past your 80th birthday,” Wolfe said.
“Flying is a 3-D world,” he said. “We never get tired of looking at the scenery. I’ll never lose interest in flying.”
To contact Staff Writer Lindsey Croft, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4247.
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