- Associated Press - Sunday, October 8, 2017

LOGANSPORT, Ind. (AP) - Harold Price has spent more than three years of his life in the sky.

“28,960 hours in the air,” he said, smiling.

The 75-year-old Price is a flight instructor at the Logansport/Cass County Airport, a position he’s held for the past 50 years. He’s not intending on slowing down any time soon either, he said.

Growing up in Onward in the 1940s and 1950s, Price said he could see Grissom Air Force Base - now Grissom Air Reserve Base - from the second floor window of a barn on his family’s property. And he knew from an early age that he wanted to be like those pilots he saw off in the distance, he said.

In 1958, Price, then a junior in high school, took his first flying lesson inside the cockpit of a Piper Tri-Pacer. His instructor at the time was a man named Robert Williamson, who was later known for his work with the Logansport Flying Service and as manager of the Logansport/Cass County Airport.

Price earned his private pilot’s license a couple years later and went to work at a local battery factory, but he continued to work on his flight instructor rating on the side. In 1967, he finally accumulated enough cockpit hours to earn that rating, and the achievement opened up a brand new world of opportunities.

“When you have your flight instructor rating, you have a commodity to hire yourself,” he said. “I had a new way of earning a living.”

So Price quit the battery factory and went into aviation full-time as a flight instructor and charter pilot for the Logansport Flying Service. It was a dream come true, he said.

But it wasn’t always fun and games. Like those occasional engine failures that forced him into emergency landings or those times he accidentally skidded off the runway in less than ideal weather conditions. Then there was his crash on Nov. 20, 1988, in Connecticut.

A wind shear from a nearby thunderstorm created a down draft that made landing nearly impossible, and the charter plane Price was piloting at the time made impact about a mile off the end of the runway.

“I compare trying to fly through that wind like trying to paddle a canoe up Niagara Falls,” he said. “And then it’s like hitting black ice with a car, so you’re just along for the ride.”

Badly injured and unable to fly for over a year, Price said he spent the majority of his recovery time just anticipating the day he could climb into the cockpit again. Because for Price, flying is more than just reading instruments and steering a plane. Flying is about freedom and having the chance to see life from a different perspective.

“It’s like a bird with wings,” he said. “You’re flying along and looking at the ground, and it’s similar to looking off a building. It’s just unreal. It’s a bird’s eye view of the world.”

That perspective is something Price said he also tries to give his own flight students during the lessons he teaches at the airport. Back in 2007, Price bought a Piper Tomahawk for those private lessons because he said an airport without its own airplane is a pretty quiet place.

His students range in age from 15 to 70, and Price said each one of them is different.

His new students start off with the basics, he said, including just getting comfortable with the airplane and the way it moves. After spending around five to seven hours just on proper maneuvering, Price said the next step is learning how to land the aircraft. It’s a process with multiple steps, and each step must be mastered before moving on to the next one.

But once students learn, flying becomes second nature, he said, like riding a bicycle or driving a car.

Over the past few years, several of Price’s past students have even gone on to make flying part of their own careers.

“One is a 747 commercial pilot for Delta Airlines,” he said, smiling, “and another is an F-16 pilot in the military. And then there’s one that’s in the Air Force Academy now. Another one is in the B-2 bomber training at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.”

And though he’s proud of all those particular students, Price said he also finds joy in everyone he has had an opportunity to teach over the years.

“Seeing a student that you taught to fly actually fly solo for the first time is rewarding,” he said. “There’s also working with them and finishing up and then seeing them get their own private licenses. That’s a big milestone too, and I’m very proud of that.”

But there is still one part of teaching Price wishes he could change.

“What has come around with the invention of the computer is that everybody is more interested in watching the instrument panel than looking outside because they’re used to a computer in front of them,” he said. “It’s just hard to get them (students) to look outside. But the world’s out there, and all you have to do is look out the window.”

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Source: (Logansport) Pharos-Tribune

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Information from: Pharos-Tribune, https://www.pharostribune.com

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