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Area dads take advantage of special flights

By Melissa Crowe
June 17, 2012 at 1:17 a.m.

Phillip Hopkins flew from the Victoria Regional Airport with his 3-year-old son Hayes. Hopkins said he wanted his twin sons, Hayes and Harper, to feel what it's like to fly because the two like to play with toy airplanes.

PORT LAVACA - Anthony Brown hunkered in the front cockpit of the 2011 single-prop Cessna Skyhawk, tense with anxiety and eager for liftoff.

Its engine roared to action, bringing to life the propeller and a deafening whirl.

As the plane rolled across the runway at the Port Lavaca Airport, the voice of his pilot, Steve Plunkett, came through the headset.

"Here we go!"

Brown's wife, Deborah, and son, Steven, settled in the back seat of the dual-control flight trainer, waving to the ground below.

They learned of the special Father's Day flights through an ad in the newspaper a few days earlier. Deborah said it was a perfect fit for her flight-fanatic husband.

Plunkett raised up on the controls, "And just like that, we're flying."

Soaring 1,000 feet above the Gulf Coast, Brown, 53, of Victoria, and his family enjoyed a Father's Day outing Sunday unlike any other. They spotted local industries, fishing boats and the Formosa plant, as well as natural landmarks and the patchwork of farmland across the Crossroads.

Brown, a correctional officer at the Stevenson state prison in Cuero, said the experience was one of the best Father's Day gifts a dad could get.

"It was a little bumpy, but it was really nice," Brown said. "I flew a good ways once we leveled off."

He was able to take over the controls for a short time under Plunkett's supervision.

He said he liked the new perspective.

"For me, aviation is something I've always dreamed of," he said. "I've loved aviation since I was a kid."

What he enjoys most is the raw power, directly placed in his hands. He is passing that love to his son.

Steven, 10, now has his sights set on becoming a pilot.

For Plunkett, the pilot and manager of Calhoun Air Center, the opportunity to share a flight is indescribable.

He likes to think it spurs childhood dreams, and shows how attainable those dreams can be.

"First-time flyers are always very interesting," he said. "Most people just have a blast."

This was the air center's first Father's Day event.

"It's so memorable," he said. "You can see your world from a new perspective."

The air center had five flights scheduled on the Skyhawk and two flights on a Robinson R-44 Helicopter.

For a half-hour adventure, airplane flights cost $59 and helicopter flights were $149.

"You can spend $60 on a nice dress shirt, but it will just get thrown in a closet," Plunkett said. "This will last a lifetime."

Flights set off Sunday from Victoria Regional Airport and Port Lavaca Airport.

Phillip Hopkins, 43, of Victoria, took a flight with his 3-year-old son, Hayes, in the Skyhawk.

While the adventure seemed geared toward Hayes, who loves playing with toy planes, Hopkins was excited to take the controls.

"I'm a speed junkie - cars, boats, planes," he said. "They'll probably be the same."

He said active gifts are the most memorable. For his own father, he tends to stick with hunting and fishing trips.

"I'd much rather do something like this, something the boys will remember," he said. "It's something I never got to do do as a child."

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