MURFREESBORO — As Middle Tennessee State University senior Collin McDonald approaches the halfway point in his transcontinental Vin Fiz 2 quest, his attempt to retrace the flight path that aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers achieved in 1911 in his plane called The Vin Fiz has already allowed him to …
• Fly in a replica of a plane built by the Wright brothers in Dayton, Ohio.
• Receive a personal tour of Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright’s home in Oakwood, Ohio, by descendent Stephen Wright, who gave McDonald an autographed copy of the Wright Flyer schematics.
• Stand beneath Rodgers’ Vin Fiz, slightly restored but the one he flew in 1911, at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
• Visit Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where the Wright’s experienced the first flight in 1903.
• Be blessed beyond measure.
McDonald, 22, of Carthage, Tennessee, an aerospace maintenance management major with a 4.0 GPA in the Honors College, expects to head toward Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas, Thursday, June 2, weather permitting, after spending time in southeast Kansas.
McDonald is making the trip as part of an Honors College thesis project and to promote aviation to young people and adults at all of the approximately 75 stops he will make as he travels from the East Coast to the West Coast in his family’s 1995 Maule MX-7-160, a four-seat plane nicknamed “Molly.”
Rodgers needed 50 days to travel from Sheepshead Bay on Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California, becoming the first to fly cross-country. He had a number of crashes and incidents along the way. Thus far, McDonald’s major issue has been weather.
“This has probably been the most unplanned yet rewarding and exciting day of the entire trip thus far,” McDonald wrote on Facebook as the Memorial Day holiday weekend approached. “We (Mom Lorrie McDonald had driven from Carthage to Dayton to join him for several days) had some plans, but the unusual sound that I hear around 8:30 a.m. altered all that.”
“As I look out the window for something that I audibly couldn’t identify, I was met with the strangest sight I have ever seen,” he added. “An aircraft slowly crept into view, passing just to the right and a few hundred feet above climbing. It was no ordinary aircraft. It looked like the Wright Brothers’ Flyer!
“We were planning on going to the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport at some point in the day, but I told Mom we had to leave NOW so I could figure out what I had just seen.”
At the museum, which had been closed the day before, McDonald discovered not only did they have a replica of the Wright Flyer, but also it flies.
“For a hundred bucks, they would take you up on a flight,” he wrote. “Well, you only live once! So I set it up to come back around 11:30 and have a flight in what would be the most amazing aircraft I have ever flown.”
Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jay Jabour flew McDonald in the Wright “B” Flyer.
“The ride wasn’t long, but it was incredible,” McDonald wrote, admitting he had an “extremely dry mouth from where I had been smiling so much that the wind dried out all my salivary glands.”
From Dallas, McDonald will continue west through New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California. In all, McDonald expects to fly 4,300 miles on the Rogers path and 7,200 miles altogether.
Follow McDonald’s journey, which includes photos, video and blogs, on the following social media outlets:
• Instagram —http://www.imgrum.net/user/capt_mac/1424764353
• VinFiz2 (wordpress blog) — https://vinfizflight.wordpress.com