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Pilot Petersen turns in his wings

Pilot Petersen turns in his wings

Sep 9, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff Writer

The Hudson resident has given rides to hundreds over the years through the Young Eagle program.

After 14 years of ownership, Hudson resident Bob Petersen is selling his plane, one he has used in recent years for the Young Eagle program.

Young Eagles was initiated in 1992 by the Experimental Aircraft Association, according to its website. The program provides rides in general aviation airplanes to children ages 8 to 17.

The national organization is co-chaired by Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles, the pilots known for their handling of the January 2009 emergency landing in the Hudson River.

"I kind of believe you should pass something along to the youth if you can," Petersen said.

Petersen, 71, has been a member of the EAA since 1983 and has given rides to hundreds of children over the years.

He can't remember exactly when he joined the program, but he remembers that the first boy he flew was Jared Hamilton, who now owns Wyoming Custom Meats in Hudson.

On the jacket he wore to Saturday's Lander Fly-In at Hunt Field Airport, there were 11 pins, each for a year that he flew 10 or more children through the Young Eagles. He said there were a couple of years he flew more than 50.

Petersen began the program using a friend's plane.

He bought his own plane, a 1947 Ercoupe 415C, in 1998 but didn't get a chance to fly it until about 2005. It had to be restored after being grounded in 1990 and spending years in storage.

When he found the plane was for sale, he said he felt like he had to have it.

Petersen guessed that he's flown about 200 children in the Ercoupe alone. Sixteen have ridden with him this year.

He said he was about 10 years old when he first heard about the Ercoupe. Petersen grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and instead of using toilet paper in the outhouse, the family used paper from newspapers and catalogues.

An ad for Ercoupe was in one of the catalogues, and he said he spent a lot of time dreaming of owning one of the little planes.

Petersen's Ercoupe is chrome silver with red accents and a distinctive twin tail.

It is light sport qualified, meaning a private pilot's license is not required to fly it. All anyone needs is a regular driver's license.

The time has come to sell the plane, Petersen said, because of eyesight and hearing problems.

"It's time for someone else to enjoy it," Petersen said.

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