Ultralight aircraft trainer keeps both feet in the air

VIDEO: Dave Gardner demonstrates his ultralight aircraft.
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Pilot Dave Gardner has the Wright stuff. The native of Dayton, Ohio, who now lives at Twin Lakes Executive Airpark in Trenton, S.C., has flown many types of aircraft, but he trains pilots in ultralight craft.

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Ultralight pilot and instructor Dave Gardner soars over his home base of Trenton, S.C.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Ultralight pilot and instructor Dave Gardner soars over his home base of Trenton, S.C.

In 2003, he flew more than 5,000 miles in an ultralight with his younger brother, John, to commemorate the centennial of the Wright Brothers' historic first flight.

"It's two brothers from Dayton honoring another two brothers from Dayton," Mr. Gardner said.

The entire flight was a continuous training lesson. Regulations call for ultralight passengers to be considered students taking a lesson. The Wright Brothers tribute involved 58 stops in 19 states, 500 gallons of fuel and 132 hours of flight time over about 3 weeks. The top speed of the ultralight was 75-80 mph.

Mr. Gardner invested years of planning and 900 hours into building his Rans S-12XL Airaile ultralight for the excursion.

"I pulled it off safe, legal, no accidents and no cost to the taxpayer," he said.

He navigated the old-fashioned way, with a compass, charts, landmarks and dead reckoning, instead of a Global Positioning System device.

"That is a feat in itself," the pilot said. "Hardly a pilot in any airport flies without a GPS to find something 20 miles away. Really, not many people can do it, even if their lives depended on it. It's a lost art in the aviation community."

Student pilot Denver McKenzie, 54, of North Augusta, has taken lessons for several months from Mr. Gardner, and he said:

"I've been flying as a student pilot since 1970, but because of finances haven't been able to complete my training until now. Dave is the fourth instructor I've had. He's a very thorough guy that you can understand.

"I have learned what to expect from the aircraft. I also think it's pretty cool that I'm training in the plane he flew coast to coast for his Wright Brothers memorial trip."

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fd1962 07/29/07 - 10:04 pm
Navigating the old fashion

Navigating the old fashion way is a lost art? What kind of an elitist comment is that? Garbage. He must never have flown in Central or South America - or even parts of Mexico. You get pretty good at it if your life depends on it, which is usually.

dtrace 08/02/07 - 10:23 am
I consider Dave a close

I consider Dave a close friend. We both have the same type of ultralights and belong to the same club (Trenton Flyers). I have been flying ultralights since the mid 80s and I was impressed to say the least when I read his story. I don't know many pilots that would have attempted this even with a GPS. Dave is an inspiration to all of us.

JFJ 08/10/07 - 03:21 pm
I read this to find out if

I read this to find out if this was the person flying over our subdivision a couple of days ago. I don't believe so as this appears to be a different sort of Ultralight. Whoever it was was over Westlake/Oak Brook and looked as if he/she was about 200ft in alt.

mag5 08/17/07 - 09:41 am
Elitist Comment? The only

Elitist Comment? The only garbage was calling it elitist!

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