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By Chanse Hall
Last Thursday, anyone driving down Highway 2 through Mount Ayr was treated to a bit of history as they passed by the airport on the east side of town.
A 1929 Travelair 4000 Biplane was parked, facing the higway with banners advertising rides.
It wasn’t a planned destination for pilot Keith Kossuth, until he flew over the town on his way to Illinois. He marked Mount Ayr on his map. Kossuth, a pilot out of Chino, California, believed it was the perfect stop on his way back home after his stay in Galesburg, Illinois.
Having been on the go in his plane since early August, Kossuth had all his belongings in the front seat of the plane.
He had his tent, sleeping bag, clothing and the rest of his supplies in the plane, unloading as the first passenger of the day arrived.
“This is everything I have,” said Kossuth. “I’ve been in the plane for 40 days.”
His first passenger of the day was myself.
Having never flown, or been in an airplane of any size or sort, I took the risk of hopping into a nearly 100 year old red and yellow biplane.
As I get buckled in, Kossuth notices me pulling the lap belt (the only thing holding me in the plane) a little tighter after he felt the tension and told me it was good to go.
“That’s good, we aren’t going upside down today,” said Kossuth. “On purpose anyway.”
As Kossuth gave a chuckle he climbed into the cockpit and we taxied down the runway. The power of the engine roared as the propeller spun and I could feel the force pushing me back into the seat, that is until the plane gained enough lift, coming off the ground, I felt weightless.
My hands gripped the metal bar inside as we continue to climb.
Ever the professional, Kossuth turned on the calming tunes of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in the background and spoke to me through the headset, continuing to express how beautiful the town looks from above.
Kossuth wasn’t wrong.
As I gained confidence that we weren’t crashing back to Earth and was able to find the courage to look around, it was breathtaking. You could see for miles in every direction while Kossuth flew over the town, the schools and the lakes, but not only could you see the town from a different perspective, you could see the “amber waves of grain” that stretched as far as the eye could see.
While in the air, Kossuth handled the plane with ease, showing me how tight the plane could turn, banking it left and doing a circle, a maneuver that saw me gripping the metal bar just as tight as before, but this time with a wide smile, before we made an approach back to the airport. Before we landed, Kossuth asked if I liked rollercoasters, to which I replied absolutely, which prompted him to pull the plane up and push down, as if on a rollercoaster.
On the final approach as we began to land we came in slightly sideways to the runway as we flew into the crosswind. Just before touchding down, Kossuth straightened the plane and we landed and I no longer had a fear of being in the air, I wanted to go again.
After the flight, Kossuth spoke about how he lives in the moment and enjoys just being in the present.
“The best place is where you’re at and you look around and think wow this is amazing,” said Kossuth. “You don’t need to be in a hurry, there’s no need.”
Kossuth took his first ever flight in a plane similar to the one he was flying across the country, when he turned 30. His then girlfriend, surprised him with a flight, though he admitted he wasn’t quite ready for flying.
“I was dressed in my shorts and sandles,” said Kossuth. “I had my boogie board. I thought we were going to the beach.”
The flight would end up sparking a new love in his life.
“I took a picture with the plane and for three years I would tell people it was mine,” said Kossuth. “Everyone that asked I’d say yeah that’s my plane, until someone who knew the plane called me out. I got caught in a three-year lie and decided I would go get my license.”
Fast-forward to 2022 and he was giving a 33-year old from Mount Ayr his first ever flight.
The flight lasted about 15 minutes and after landing, Kossuth spoke about his love for flying and how he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything else.
On Friday, Kossuth stayed busy, taking multiple residents of all ages up in the airplane named “Magic One”, including 100 year old Jake Daily, who in a Facebook post from Clearview Nursing Homes, was flying in similar machinary just 52 years ago.
Kossuth took off from Mount Ayr as he continued his journey back west, no doubt barnstorming into other small towns along the way, giving others the chance to see their towns from a new perspective.