- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

SUNRIVER, Ore. (AP) - On the edge of the tarmac at Sunriver Airport on Friday morning, Colin Powers’ wife, June, anxiously awaited her husband’s first flight in his rebuilt World War II airplane.

As a group of about two dozen people gathered to see him fly the Piper L-4J, she made sure everyone knew they were welcome to the coffee and doughnuts she had brought. Some of the people there were friends of the couple; others were simply interested in seeing a WWII-era plane fly again.

Powers bought the plane in 2012, and since then has worked to restore it in his home garage in La Pine. Many pieces he replaced on the plane are new, but they’re all authentic to when the plane was originally built in 1945. Powers made sure of that. He finished the plane about a month and a half ago but waited until he had a new copy of the plane’s airworthiness certificate and good weather to fly.

Friday, his take-off point was out of sight, so as the time came near, the antsy crowd began slowly spreading across the tarmac to get what they thought might be a better look. Nervous, Powers’ wife asked the airport staff if that was all right.

“I won’t go out there,” she said, laughing. “I can’t run fast enough!”

Just a few minutes later, Powers appeared above in the L-4J, taking everyone back to a different time.

“Oh my goodness!” June Powers said as he flew overhead.

“There he is,” said a man standing next to her, in awe.

“Gives me goose pimples,” said another woman in the crowd.

It was clear June Powers felt a sense of relief as her husband buzzed by safely.

On his second fly-through though, Powers decided to have a little fun. He tipped the wings back and forth, letting the plane lean left, then right.

“Oh don’t do that!” Powers’ wife said as he pulled the simple trick, scolding him good-naturedly far from where he could hear. “Well, that tells me everything is OK.”

When Powers landed, there was applause and whoops of excitement.

“Way to go, Ace!” someone said from the group gathered around the little plane.

“It’s alive!” Powers said in response, emerging from the aircraft, where he had been steering from the backseat in the tandem plane.

Powers quickly called over Geoff Carson to share in the moment of success. Carson was the certified inspector who checked Powers’ plane at each new step along the way.

Carson came out early Friday morning before the scheduled 9 a.m. flight. He checked over the plane more than once and found that there was nothing mechanically wrong with the airplane.

After the flight, Powers said Carson had given him a hard time about making an event out of the plane’s first run since 1968 - he thought that was slightly ambitious.

“Geoff said to me, ‘You’re nuts for doing your first flight with people around,’” Powers said. But Powers had faith in the aircraft he built, and in having Carson’s approval. “He’s a good guy, we’ve become friends.”

Two grandsons of Powers’ were there for the big day, congratulating their grandpa on another plane rebuilt, and another successful flight. They have childhood memories of Powers teaching them about airplanes and showing them ones he brought back to life.

“He took me up in the Piper L-4H when I was a kid,” said Michael Blanchard, 30, of Salem. Powers previously restored an L-4H, an earlier model of the L-4J. “It’s amazing to see your grandpa build something like that.”

His brother, Baskin Betsworth, 24, of La Pine, agreed.

Powers gave his grandsons each a big hug as they congratulated him on the successful flight.

“I’m just so happy it flew so well,” Powers said.

After all the excitement, Powers teased his wife, asking her when they’ll take it to Reno, Nevada. The Powers have taken trips in his airplanes in the past, but this time he was joking. His plans for the plane are to sell it to a historical museum so more people can enjoy it.

“Right now it’s pristine,” Powers said. “It’s in as good of condition as it will ever be.”

That’s the way he’d like to keep it.

“It was fun,” said Powers about the restoration and the flight itself. “Nothing about aviation that isn’t fun.”


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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