This family member has wings

WENDY DOHERTY/FOR THE EXPRESS Ryan Newell, right, his wife Shanna, and their kids, Blake and Emma, left, are the proud family owners of a Hatz experimental home-build biplane. They love the Fly-In, particularly because they meet up in Lock Haven with their group of flying friends.

LOCK HAVEN — “It’s a biplane!”

Ryan Newell, owner of a Hatz experimental home-build aircraft, said he never saw himself in the open cockpit — until he bought a biplane.

Ryan and his family have brought their shiny red aircraft to the Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven Fly-In, taking place this week at Piper Memorial Airport. Residents of Canton, Ohio, they often attend the annual event, along with a group of friends who share their love of flying. Ryan, wife Shanna, and kids Emma and Blake don’t spend as much time checking out the other visiting aircraft as they might, Ryan said, because they love to visit with their gang.

The Hatz plane moved into their garage not long after Ryan and Shanna were married. Shanna was pregnant with Emma, then with Blake during the two years Ryan took to restore his baby.

He picked up the pieces of the plane, perhaps literally, at Wapakoneta, Ohio’s Neil Armstrong Airport, named for that city’s famous son.

“I bought the remains,” he said, “trucked it home and completely restored it.”

Two years to the day he acquired it, he flew the restored Hatz for the first time.

“It was a coincidence. I didn’t even realize it was the exact date until a memory came up on Facebook,” he said.

Blake, age 10, was born one month after that maiden flight. He and sister Emma, 13, are comfortable in the two-seater and are used to being around planes in general.

Ryan’s wider family owns four planes, all of which they restored. The planes date from 1946, 1953 and 1955. The Hatz is a relative newcomer, dating to 1996.

Ryan’s dad is to arrive at the Fly-In today in his Taylorcraft.

The older Mr. Newell opened up the wide world of flying to his young son Ryan when he restored a Piper Pacer and encouraged Ryan to help. They visited one of the very first Fly-Ins here, in the mid 1980s, Ryan remembers. The Pacer is still in the family and is undergoing its second restoration.

It’s been a force in Ryan’s life in more than one way and may have lead to his career as a high school history teacher.

“I grew up with these antique classics, and I love reading about aviation history,” he said.

Why did he choose to restore a biplane? It may have been love at first sight.

Shanna said, “We got the most impractical thing ever, something fun!”

“It’s a great plane to take the kids around in, and to take my wife up in for sunset flights,” Ryan said.

He also enjoys taking Young Eagles on flights. The program gives young people their first free ride in a plane.

Owning a fun aircraft like the Hatz not only continues the family’s love of aviation, it has also lead to new friends.

“There’s a whole group of people we come with,” Ryan said. ” We come even when the weather’s not great so we can see them.”

“We do follow each other around,” Shanna said. “It’s kind of our vacation… It’s all about relationships.”


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