Taking to the skies on vintage wings

Taking to the skies on vintage wings

Mar 01, 2008

Dr. Paul Tulacz flies high in his Stearman N75PT, a 1940s-era airplane he restored. Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Tulacz
I started flying at age 52, which is somewhat late in life to take up this particular hobby. About that time I began to develop an interest in older aircraft. So in 1995 I purchased a Piper J-3 Cub in Clinton, Miss., and transported it to Oregon. Seventy-five percent of the plane required restoration, but it had its maiden flight after restoration in August 1998. Restoring the aircraft was a learning experience that involved precision and innovation—but the reward was beholding the plane's incredible beauty when I first flew it.

In 1992 I had purchased a Stearman originally built in 1941, but I wasn't able to start restoring it until February 2000. The delay was because of the usual factors: time, money, and personal circumstances. I first flew the plane in July 2003, making this a roughly three-and-a-half year project. Its purple color is uncommon, but I chose it because it's characteristic of the 1930s when the plane was designed.

I took pleasure in designing the look of this airplane and in performing the hands-on restoration work—and now I get to fly it. Purple Passion is an open-cockpit aircraft, so I'm at the mercy of the flying season here in the Northwest, which generally runs April through October. Occasionally there's a great day at other times of the year, so I take the opportunity to fly whenever I can.

Learning to fly, building a beautiful and functional machine, and then flying that machine has been a very rewarding process. It's not necessarily an escape for me—I truly enjoy my chosen profession. Daily practice certainly has its tribulations involving clients, pets, employees, and other challenges, but I don't have the urge to flee to some other venue. My interest in restoration and flight is just another one of life's joys.

I'm fortunate to live in this beautiful area of the country with its mountains and other sights. What better way to enjoy the splendor of the Northwest than from the sky?

—Paul Tulacz, DVM
Portland Animal Clinic; Portland, Ore.

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