Thursday, February 02, 2012

101 year-old man takes the trip of a lifetime. Lebanon State Airport (S30), Lebanon, Oregon

Out of the plane

MATT DEBOW Lebanon Express

Paul Miller exits the plane after being the oldest man to fly out of the Lebanon State Airport, Oregon.


Paul Miller, 101, takes off on a flight from the Lebanon State Airport on Jan. 26, courtesy of pilot Tim “Tebo” Corban.

By Matt DeBow, Lebanon Express

Tim “Tebo” Corban and Paul Miller, 101, were in flight on Jan. 26, circling around Sweet Home, looking for Miller’s house.

After they couldn’t find it, Miller, who has never piloted an airplane before, took control of the Cessna 172.

He flew back to the Lebanon Airport following Highway 20, where Corban landed.

“I couldn’t even find my own house. Everything looks so different up there,” Miller said. “I saw Foster Lake and the sawmill, but I never saw my own house.”

If this sounds like an exciting day, note that Miller celebrated his 101st birthday on Oct. 26, 2011, making him the oldest person to fly in and pilot a plane with LebanAir Aviation.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I wanted to be the only one in Sweet Home my age to fly,” Miller said. “Just ’cause I’m old, I wanted to show people I could still get out like other people. Of course, it doesn’t take a young person to fly that plane. I could fly that if I was blind.”

Miller said he could feel the controls in the air, but he didn’t think he could land it blind.

“I was told by people that I was going to be the first person my age to fly in a plane,” Miller said. “I didn’t know anything about me holding on to the (steering controls).”

This was not his first time in an airplane.

“I rode in an airplane when I was surveying elk, turkeys, antelope and deer,” Miller said. This surveying was part of his job when he worked as a park ranger in Arizona.

After the two men were safely on the ground, Miller was given a flight certificate recognizing his adventure.

“This is something to be proud of, and people are going to know it, too,” Miller said. “I didn’t ever think I’d be a pilot.”

Corban said letting Miller fly “was absolutely awesome. It was very cool and very rewarding.”

Corban said he had no trepidation in letting Miller fly the plane. He has let 4-year-old children fly his plane before.

“There is a built-in safety feature in airplanes — nobody wants to crash,” Corban said. “I tell them not to make sudden moves, and use careful deliberate movements. People pick that up naturally because they don’t want to crash.”

Goal unfinished

Corban set a goal to give a flight to the oldest man and woman living in Linn County.

“I found the oldest man that I know of,” Corban said. “Now I need to find the oldest women. If there is any man older than 101 out there, give me a call and I will give him an airplane ride.”

The managers of the trailer park where Miller lives saw a newspaper article about Corban that stated this goal and they thought of him.

Katherine Ecker and her husband Gail, the managers of that park, said it didn’t take much convincing to get Miller to go on the flight.

Miller has been living independently, with little assistance, in that trailer park since his wife died 11 years ago.

Miller was even able to drive himself home from Lebanon to Sweet Home after the flight.

“He was so hyped up when he got back today,” Katherine Ecker said. “(Miller) was so happy, saying it was the best thing he ever had. He brought that certificate up to us and he was so proud of it.”

Miller the man

Miller worked in Oregon as a logger early in his career before being injured. This prompted him to work as a game warden for 29 years in Arizona.

He said he lived in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, spending most of his time at the Grand Canyon.

“I could throw a rock from my front door right into the canyon,” he said. “I lived a wonderful life, a good life. A lot of people didn’t think so ‘cause I wrote lots of citations. I was the No. 1 (game warden). I’ll admit that. I am not bragging. I have proof at home. Proof just like this (flying certificate).”

His wife started his interest in art by getting him painting, and he has been creating work ever since.

“I am an artist,” he said. “You’d know that if you ever looked at my living room. It’s papered with pictures.”

Miller also creates 8 by 10 colored pencil drawings. Two years ago, three of his drawings sold for $1,000 each.

Miller plans to fly again after his 102 birthday, which Corban is excited about.

For more information, or if you think you may be the oldest woman in Linn County, or if you are a Linn County male resident older than 101 years, call LebanAir Aviation at 541-258-5029.

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