BY D’ARCY PATRICK EGAN
Retiring recently, Bill Penkava of Elyria, Ohio was more than ready to put some excitement in his life. His wife, Jane, was more than happy to help him make it happen.
Penkava went whole hog, picking the streamlined 1967 AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter over the UH-1 Huey helicopter, the workhorse of the Vietnam War and Gulf War.
While many military veterans relish a return to the Vietnam and Gulf conflicts with a ride in combat aircraft, Penkava is not a military veteran and was eagerly seeking the unique experience.
“The Cobra carries only a pilot and one passenger, and they had me sit in the front seat, where the nose gunner would have been firing the 20-millimeter cannons,” said Penkava. But first Penkava had a thorough briefing by Scott Wiley, a pilot and mechanic with the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation in St. Louis, Mo.
Wiley had already spent a few days in Port Clinton setting up three days of Cobra helicopter rides, and will now head to the Dayton Air Show at the Dayton International Airport on Saturday and Sunday, July 22-23.
“The cobra is a fun helicopter to fly, and people who book a ride always enjoy chatting with the pilot over the headphones during the flight,” said Wiley. “We can give them a great view of the Ohio shoreline and the Port Clinton area, a place we always enjoy visiting because of the great Port Clinton Airport and the Liberty Aviation Museum.”
The museum has space under roof for the aircraft when wet weather sometimes short-circuits the helicopter rides. And offers the Tin Goose Diner, in case adventuresome passengers want a hearty breakfast or lunch.
The Cobra helicopter flights, because they can accommodate only one passenger, are more expensive at $625. The UH-1 Huey that was waiting on the grass a short distance away at the Erie–Ottawa International Airport (Carl R. Keller Field), which is three miles east of downtown Port Clinton, can handle 10 passengers and is $100.
“I loved the experience,” said Penkava. “The flight was well worth it, and everyone made sure I really enjoyed the flight.”
The Huey helicopter flights are not done for this year. Liberty Aviation Museum will welcome the Vietnam UH-1 Huey, “Greyhound,” for rides on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 2-3. For information call 734-252-6457 or visit: firstname.lastname@example.org.