Ohio professor releases book on record-breaking flight across state

Pilot Gordon (Joe) Murray, Ph.D., an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) at Kent State University in Ohio has published “Lost in Oscar Hotel: There is Something in the Air,” chronicling the peculiar world record-setting journey he and physician Ron Siwik made in two 1946 Piper J3 Cub airplanes last spring.

The pilots landed in all of Ohio’s 88 counties before arriving at Wright Brothers Airport in Dayton, a journey of about 1,809 nautical miles. The book features 65 color photographs taken by award-winning photographers Phil Botta, Christabel Devadoss, Laura Fong, Gary Harwood, and Sam Verbulecz.

“It is a story of love and a nearly forgotten secret: Airplanes were the original Internet — invented to bring people in this world together,” Murray says. “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.

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?”

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 11.40.00 AMThe “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.

On the record 10-day flight, the duo spent 36 hours and six minutes in the air, making 176 takeoffs and landings on a route that covered 44,825 square miles. To the astonishment of the pilots, scores came out to greet them at airfields and farms all over the state and nearly 50,000 people tracked the flight online. Stories of the flight were reported in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines, and on television and radio.

Airports offered meals and fuel to help keep the pilots and Cubs going. The pilots signed autographs. Farmers, friends and strangers pressed wrinkled dollars into palms and shirt pockets for a scholarship fund. For a short while, Murray and Siwik, along with the team’s photographers, all unwittingly became the good will ambassadors of flight, honoring the legacy of the Wrights in the Birthplace of Aviation.

The flight helped raise nearly $3,000 and established a scholarship at Kent State. In September 2012, the pair was invited to Columbus to be honored by the 129th Ohio General Assembly and recognized in testimony to both houses of the state legislature.

Murray is a pilot and journalism professor at Kent State University. He was trained as an educational psychologist and spent much of his professional and academic careers working in television as a director, writer, videographer and editor. His research and assignments have taken him to South Africa, Cuba and Antarctica. Documentaries Murray produced in the United States, Europe and the Middle East have been recognized with numerous industry awards. He grew up in Ohio and is often found flying old airplanes into grass airfields and farms around the Midwest, looking for a free lunch and homemade pie.

For more information: Kent.edu

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