Airport manager finds a plane that inspired careerOne Jamestown man was reunited with a piece of his past on last month — and it lets him climb to 14,000 feet and cruise at about 110 mph. Matt Leitner, Jamestown Regional Airport manager, noticed about a year ago a local pilot flying in with a 1974 Cessna 150 that looked awfully familiar.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
One Jamestown man was reunited with a piece of his past on last month — and it lets him climb to 14,000 feet and cruise at about 110 mph.
Matt Leitner, Jamestown Regional Airport manager, noticed about a year ago a local pilot flying in with a 1974 Cessna 150 that looked awfully familiar.
As a teenager 17 years ago Leitner had ridden in that same Cessna. He also remembered it from his time he spent at work at what is now the Rhinelander/ Oneida County Airport in Wisconsin.
“A local pilot purchased it and brought it back, and I was out in one of our operations vehicles,” Leitner said. “He let me stick my head inside and instantly I recognized the smell, I recognized the plane too, but that confirmed it.”
On July 20, he bought the plane. The sticker price in 1974 was $16,000, since then the value of the plane has appreciated by a few thousand dollars.
“I could barely contain myself when I got the loan,” he said. “I was over the moon — it was beyond a state of euphoria.”
A self-described “resident airport kid,” Leitner spent his teenage years washing planes, pumping gas, sweeping the hangar floor, even helping on a banner-towing operation.
“Anything for an hour of flight instruction,” he said.
He remembered that Cessna flying in numerous time from Steven’s Point, Wis., to Rhinelander. He even had a ride in it, nearly two decades ago.
“I kind of forgot about her until I saw it land a year ago,” Leitner said.
The original leather interior and the unique smell remains, but a GPS has been added along with new safety equipment.
Finally becoming owner of the Cessna reminded Leitner of his challenges in obtaining his pilot’s license. He is blind in his left eye.
“The medical examiner told me to find a new hobby,” he said. “A local flight instructor told me where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
He trained to be a pilot on a Piper J5 Cub and Cessna 172, which has four seats instead of two but is essentially the same plane.
After proving to a Federal Aviation Administration official that he could fly 17 years ago, Leitner received his first class pilot’s license.
“I was smitten by the flying bug when I was 10 years of age, and they always told me being blind in my left eye would be prohibitive,” Leitner said. “I surmounted that obstacle.”
Next on his list of goals to top is to fly into each of the 89 North Dakota airports to complete a challenge the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission puts forth to every pilot: reach every one, fill out the passport and get a leather jacket.
Eventually he also plans to fly out to the Badlands and use the airport’s courtesy car and do some camping as well.
His new plane can stay in the air for about 6 1/2 to 7 hours, which means he can hit any airport in the state with one tank.
“I like going low and slow and keeping the window open,” Leitner said.
Since he acquired the plane on July 20, Leitner has flown eight hours. So far he has only crossed Valley City Municipal Airport off his list of 89. But 17 years after obtaining his license, he said this will be his first and last plane.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455
or by email at email@example.com