By BILL JAMES
UFOs exist — I’ve seen them.
In fact, I’ve even had lunch with 13 of them.
On a beautiful August day, I launched my Ercoupe headed for Grimes Field (I74) in Urbana, Ohio. Taking off from Akron-Canton Regional Airport (KCAK) and flying at 100 mph, my steed delivered me in about 1-½ hours to lunch at the airport’s popular restaurant with the United Flying Octogenarians (UFOs).
This very exclusive club numbers more than 1,500 pilots worldwide. Membership qualifications are simple and cast in stone: To gain membership you must “operate as pilot in command of an aircraft at least once after your 80th birthday” — no exceptions.
These Midwest members arrived in Pipers, Cessnas, Glasairs, RVs, and a couple of homebuilts I did not recognize.
Two of the lady UFOers were past air racers, both in the United States and in Europe. These two amazing women, Maisey Stear and Barb Godwin, flew in from Toledo in their two Cessna 177s.
By the way, these women are both 83 and look like they could handle another race season!
Two 85-year-olds, Charley DeBerry in his Cherokee, John Chuprin in his 172, arrived in style, as did Don Green, 83, in his Piper Arrow.
Also joining the group were an RV-4 and an RV-8, flown by Rick Stansley and Gordon Comfort. Gordon, who is 86, built both of the RVs.
The oldest attendee was Art Sussman, 93, who drove in with his wife.
Talking to this group was little different than talking to a roomful of enthusiastic 30 something pilots. The octogenarians were loud and laughing, talking airplanes and magical places visited in their birds. There was something really special being in by their presence.
On March 12, 2020, I am going to get in my Ercoupe and do a touch and go — then send in my application for UFO membership!