Dayton couple flies away with top experimental aircraft award

Maynard Ingalls and his wife, Patty, of Dayton take to the skies, cruising in their experimental biplane to destinations like Vermont, Canada and the Bahamas.

But flying the skies is different than driving the roads. Sometimes, some decisions are sudden, like when Patty makes a wide turn to the right to trace beaver dams from high up.

And although the Ingalls have won many awards in the past 20 years for the Starduster II, they flew into a truly prestigious position last week in Oshkosh, Wis., when the RV of the skies took the top-place award for restoration at Airventure, an experimental aircraft show in its 50th year.

When the couple received an envelope requesting their attendance at the awards show, Maynard may have suspected that the lightened electrical system, upgraded radios and cosmetic touch-ups had been noticed.

But, at the ceremony, award after award was given away and the Starduster II remained uncalled.

"We kinda gave up on it, and there were only a couple more (awards) to get," Ingalls said. "They called our name and I dragged (Patty) on up there. "

Only two top awards, one for completion and the other for restoration, are presented by Airventure founder Paul Poberezny. The Starduster II won for restoration.

"I gotta be different, so I Ieaned over to Paul and said, 'I want to thank you very much for what you've done. If it wasn't for you, all these people wouldn't be out flying their experimental airplanes.'"

"'Do you really believe that?' he says."

"I said, 'I sure do.' And he said, 'Give me a big hug.' I did, and then I gave him a big kiss on the cheek."

Besides recognition, the couple received a sterling-silver cup for the Starduster II.

Maynard and Patty built the Starduster II from plans, completing it in 1980, when they won the Best Workmanship Award at Oshkosh. In 1983, the Starduster II won the Reserve Grand Champion.

Competitors can only move up the awards rank, not down, and the Ingalls were working their way upwards.

The experimental plane also needs to have logged more than 1,000 hours and be at least 20 years old. No problem for the Starduster II.

But it's not all about winning, it's about making new friends and appreciating experimental planes, according to Ingalls.

Each morning of the show, a group of planes flew in the missing man formation. With "Taps" playing in the background, one plane from the group pulled up, "making tears come to our eyes," Ingalls said.

And from 4-6 p.m. each day, an aircraft show began with parachutists jumping from planes, as the National Anthem played and one parachutist waved the U.S. flag.

"It's a high every day," said Ingalls, describing the 10-day show.

The Ingalls built a hangar in Dayton for their plane, 26 steps away from their patio.

It's a kids dream come true, which is exactly when Maynard began to build model airplanes. As a teenager, he hung around airports, until someone invited him in. Soon, he was polishing and gassing planes, and before he knew it, he had soloed.

Born in Vermont, Ingalls encourages young adults to take up something they can give up, instead of getting involved with a love they will be stuck with for life. But he also said the plane was more than a toy, that the Starduster II was practical and usable, as it has been since they moved to the air park in Dayton.

"Soon after I got out of the Navy, I came to California. When I got ready to retire, I left all the work stuff behind. It's the most beautiful picture in the world," he said talking about the view from his lot. "Everything I've always wanted is right here. And for a guy coming from Vermont and moving to the desert, it just doesn't make sense."


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