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Dreams taking flight: Local pilots grow up imagining life in the sky

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Pat McCaughey looks to his left while flying his 1953 Beechcraft T-34 over Natchez during the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s Fly-in at the Concordia Airport in Vidalia on Saturday morning.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Pat McCaughey looks to his left while flying his 1953 Beechcraft T-34 over Natchez during the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s Fly-in at the Concordia Airport in Vidalia on Saturday morning.

VIDALIA — Little boys with model airplanes sometimes grow up to be men with pilot licenses.

That is the case with Jonesville resident Pat McCaughey and Ferriday resident Jerry Stallings, both who have been flying for decades.

McCaughey and Stallings joined several other pilots Saturday at the Concordia Parish Airport for the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 91’s annual fly-in.

McCaughey flew his yellow 1953 Navy T-34 trainer to the airport for the show. The military has been using T-34s since 1949, longer than any other aircraft, he said.

“The Navy still uses them for training,” he said.

McCaughey’s plane spent 10 years in Ecuador as a training plane.

“I even have the Spanish log books for it,” he said.

Stallings’ T-18 two-seater plane spent three years as a work in progress as he built it piece by piece.

“I worked on it every day for three years,” he said

Stallings has built three planes and started out building model airplanes.

McCaughey said his love for airplanes started when he was a boy.

“Then the model airplanes were on a string,” he said.

McCaughey owns six planes, three of which are used for his agricultural spraying business and three that are leisure planes. But he said he has never built a plane himself.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience, and I don’t have either of those,” he joked.

Flying over the Mississippi River, looking down at the winding muddy water, the trees dotting the skyline, the squares of farmland and tiny houses, McCaughey said looking down at the earth is the best part about being in the air.

“Nothing looks like it does on the ground,” he said. “It all looks better.”