Dan Maggart recognizes the value of aviation
By Kyla Hurt
Photos by Kyla Hurt and Dan Maggart where indicated.
Pilot and aviation enthusiast Dan Maggart, who resides in Winchester with his family, won an award for the restoration work he did on his airplane, a 1968 Cessna 177 Cardinal, which he keeps at the Jacksonville Municipal Airport.
The Dean Richardson Memorial Award was given to Maggart by the Vintage Aircraft Association, which is affiliated with the Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA. He was recognized at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, an annual air show, most recently held July 26–August 1 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the work he put into restoring his plane.
Mounted on the base of the trophy is a statue of Charles Lindberg, “the icon of aviation in America.” Maggart was at Oshkosh with approximately 608,000 other attendees, according to final tallies released on warbirdnews.com.
Maggart’s 1968 Cessna 177 Cardinal falls into the “contemporary aircraft” category, as other planes might fall into the Warbird or experimental, homebuilt type categories, for example. His is a certified aircraft, originally made by the Cessna Aircraft company in 1968. The letter from the board that is addressed to Maggart reads in part, “Your vintage airplane … preserving aviation history for future generations is exactly what you have done.”
For Maggart, “a lot of this is to help younger people experience aviation, what it means to own an aircraft, and really to promote the [Jacksonville Municipal] airport, I think. We need to do that more. This is a treasure out here that’s not realized.”
Maggart bought his airplane in September 2018 and started the huge restoration project in March 2019. “There’s a ton of hours in on that airplane. Stripping the old paint off and getting it down to the raw material, which is aluminum … all these old aircraft are aluminum pretty much so it’s a little bit different technique … and you must remember that the paint is 1968 vintage paint, so a lot of the strippers today aren’t compatible with the paints that they were using in 1968. It was quite a process of getting old paint and primer off, down to the bare metal, and then starting fresh again,” explains Maggart.
The plane he’d purchased in original condition for approximately $40,000 has probably more than doubled in value through all the work Maggart has completed in its restoration. On top of completely stripping the paint and primer, and then repainting, he worked on the avionics, updated or added new technology, among other details. The plane also has a lot of its original pieces.
Beyond that, he researched. Then, he researched more before every step. Furthermore, he needed the approval of an aircraft inspector with all modifications and mechanic work on his Cessna-built aircraft. Without 74-year-old Irvin “Klem” Klemmensen, “I would not have been able to do what I did because I wouldn’t have been supervised by anyone” tells Maggart. “Klem” is a self-employed mechanic and rents a building at the airport. Maggart recounts, “The story is that there was even an older gentleman that he worked for … there was a shed out there in the middle of that grass and that was the mechanics’ place 40 years ago … he’s been on this field for a long time.”
Maggart has been flying 25 years. His dad was a pilot in the United States Air Force and retired to Greenfield in 1973.
“Kind of a nostalgia here, this would have been one of the first airports I ever flew into as a little kid with my dad,” recalls Maggart. Established in 1946 and dedicated in 1956, the airport does have a bit of a retro, “The Jetsons” feel to it – which assuredly held its own after a 4 a.m. arrival and being welcomed by the sunrise after some time into his work. “It’s futuristic looking with all the angles, with all the glass that’s here. It is kind of neat. It’s one of the neatest things, too, to see an airport all lit up … blue lights, red lights, white lights, yellow lights. I have early memories of the airport.”
The project that Maggart began in March of 2019 was finally finished in September of 2020, and his “real job” is in management with a seed company called Beck’s Hybrids.
The restoration and overhaul of an airplane is quite an undertaking; however, Maggart qualifies himself and reasoning for restoration because of several things in his background. One is his background as a farm kid and the correlation of mechanics at times. Additionally, he is an agronomist, often taking farmers up to assess their fields – though mostly his flying is recreational. His 18-year-old son is taking flight lessons and notes, “That comes from dad. My two daughters, they know the lingo (he laughs), and they could probably talk airplanes with anybody. We’re airshow people. We’re airplane people. When a plane goes over, we stop what we’re doing to see if we can tell what it is or who it is. Your family gets into that sort of culture, I guess you could say.”
Passing on the love of and involvement in aviation to the next generation is particularly special to Maggart because he went through the process with his father.
“This is always what I tell young people … what you can buy an ATV for, you can get your pilot’s license and you’ll have it forever. There’s lots of utility – and you’re amongst less than 1% of the population that can fly an airplane. I would point anybody to it; it’s an investment. You’d love it.
The Jacksonville Municipal Airport has a program called Young Eagles and a local chapter of EAA that meets. The idea with the Young Eagles is to give someone that first flying experience at a young age, “that hopefully sparks an interest for them in aviation or airplanes,” adds Maggart.
Check out eaavintage.org for the youth program and flyijx.com for the airport.
“At some point in time, the aviation is really going to take off,” says Maggart. “The future of aviation for young people is what we have available in Jacksonville … it’s going to become vital to young people and to America. Aviation at Jacksonville is a shadow of what it used to be.”