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Johnson County seniors take to the skies during annual Aviation Day

A single-engine plane flies by the Johnson County Airport hanger just south of Mountain City, TN, while members of the Johnson County Senior Center watch or await their turn to take to the skies during the annual Senior Aviation Day organized by Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger. Each trip took passengers on a 15 to 20-minute fly over the town of Mountain City, a lap around Doe Mountain, and Doe Valley to see part of Watauga Lake before coming over Roan Valley and landing back at the airport. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics

It took two helicopters and eight airplanes and their pilots to take 76 seniors to the skies last week when the Johnson County Airport hosted its second annual Aviation Day.
The fun-filled day organized by Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger allowed local seniors to soar the skies over Mountain City and for many a chance to fulfill a lifelong wish.
“Many had never been in a plane,” Motsinger said. “This event was so special to many of our seniors as it marked something off their bucket list.”
Each trip generally took passengers on a 15 to 20-minute fly over the town of Mountain City, a lap around Doe Mountain and Doe Valley to see part of Watauga Lake. The ride ended with coming over Roan Valley and landing back at the airport.
Motsinger emphasized that thanks to the success of last year’s event, many more came out to watch while enjoying the beautiful day by supporting the event as spectators.
Showing his continued support of the event, airport manager and pilot Dave Garis donated his time and money to cover the fuel for more than a dozen seniors.
“The local pilots look forward to helping the senior center, and we really enjoy it,” Garis said.” I’m already lining up pilots for next year.”
Motsinger agreed when she said, “These pilots are amazing and so generous to donate their time and fuel for this event, not to mention all the ground crew working along with my volunteers that came from the center to help with scheduling the riders.”
Of course, an event such as taking nearly a 100 for a flyover the town is by no means without cost.
“It costs a lot of money to fly a plane, but it’s even more expensive to fly a helicopter,” Motsinger said. “We ask the seniors that took a ride to donate $10.00 if they were able to pay. All the money was given to the airport to help with the fuel expenses.”
Seniors have also enjoyed snacks and refreshments and cheered on their friends
getting on and off the
Local pilots that participated were chopper pilots, Steve Harris, and Steve Arnold.
Arnold is a 25-year veteran pilot who did not hesitate to take part in the event.
“There is nothing better than enjoying a beautiful day in the skies,” he said during one the number turns on his helicopter. “I enjoy sharing my passion for flying with our local seniors.”
Jim Gardner, Tom Sharpe, Tim Lewis, Bradley Spatz, Mark Lehmann, Steve Elks, Doug Pratt were all the airplane pilots. Lynn Campbell (pilot) and Liz Edgar (pilot) were also there helping ground crew and offered their planes as well.
All the pilots and ground crew that participated have been invited to breakfast this Thursday, October 17, at 8 a.m., at the Johnson County Senior Center.
“It is just a small way for the senior center to show our hospitality,” Motsinger said. “We will be doing this again next year. Dave and I decided to make it a yearly event.”
Those wishing to learn more about the Senior Center, the programs it offers,
or volunteer opportunities may call the center at 727-8883.