Ohio professor to fly 1,670 miles to fund scholarship

This spring, two Piper J3 Cubs will set out on a journey to the place where aviation began. It will be the first flight to Wright Brothers Airport via all of Ohio’s 88 counties and will honor the 75th anniversary of the airplane that taught nearly a half-million pilots to fly.

Joe Murray, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) at Kent State University, will pilot a Piper J3 Cub while Ron Siwik, a former U.S. military flight surgeon who served in Vietnam, will join the flight piloting a second Piper Cub.

Joe Murray

Murray and Siwik’s flight is unique however, because they are not planning to take a direct route to Wright Brothers Airport from Kent State’s Andrew W. Paton Airport. Instead, they intend to fly consecutively from Kent to Dayton via all of Ohio’s 88 counties — a distance of 1,670 miles.

Murray and co-author Gary Harwood, an award-winning photographer and JMC instructor, will produce a book and documentary video about aviation in Ohio and create an annual scholarship to help disadvantaged families send a child to college for the first time. The team will also document their journeys online

“A few gallons of fuel at each stop will help keep the airplane in the air, and a few dollars from enough people in each county will establish a scholarship fund to help families send a child to college,” Murray said. “No donation is too small, and all contributions will be deeply appreciated. Our goal is to try to raise a minimum of $500 from individuals and organizations in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.”

Ron Siwik

One scholarship contributor from each county will join Murray in the J3 for a flight at his or her local airport. Plus, all contributions are tax deductible when made to the Kent State University Foundation.

The flight is expected to depart on May 13, weather permitting. The aircraft will spend about 26 hours aloft over eight consecutive days. Weather delays and time spent on the ground at each airport to research stories, record video, audio and photographs will increase the time overall to about 14 days.

The team is hosting an online raffle to cover expenses for the flight in the historic 1946 Piper J3 Cubs. Donate $5 for each drawing entry to win an authentic vintage leather B-15 Flight Jacket from US Wings valued at $395.

Murray tells his students that, “Aviation is full of good character — and also good characters,” a deliberate reference to the fact that there are many interesting people and stories to be found in aviation.

His students write for the online magazine Stories That Fly and gain valuable experience while learning how to become better digital storytellers. Not one to shy away from practicing what he preaches in the classroom, this book project provides the opportunity and inspiration for the record-establishing flight. Murray and Harwood will collect photographs and stories where ever the airplane lands in Ohio.

With a wry sense of humor, Murray refers to this fortnight of adventure as the “Lost in Oscar Hotel” flying book tour. He asks, “Who else do you know would fly for so long to Dayton when you could walk there in half the time?”

The “Oscar Hotel” reference, by the way, is “pilot-speak” — derived from how Ohio’s abbreviation, OH, would be communicated via an in-flight radio transmission using the FAA’s phonetic alphabet.



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