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Seasoned Citizen Earns Sport Pilot Certificate

Eugene Balogh
New sport pilot Gene Balogh in the cockpit of his L-2 Grasshopper.

Eugene Balogh
Balogh’s son alerted him to the availability of N50408.

October 8, 2009 — A World War II and Korean veteran from the northern part of Lower Michigan recently demonstrated you’re never too old to learn how to fly. Eugene “Gene” Balogh, 82, who lives in East Jordan on Lake Charlevoix, Michigan, received his Sport Pilot Certificate on September 29 and now looks forward to flying his recently purchased Taylorcraft L-2 Grasshopper.

In fact, it was a Grasshopper that motivated him to take flight lessons. Early on in his military service, Balogh volunteered as a spotter in the backseat of an L-2 and he’s had a soft spot for the type ever since. A frequent AirVenture attendee, Balogh admits he usually winds up down by the warbirds.

He learned about the available L-2 from his son, Andrew, of Wellington, Florida, a student pilot who owns a Luscombe. Since it was located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Balogh asked his flight-instructor friend, Leon Jarema of Boyne City Airport, Michigan, to accompany him on a commercial flight, check out the airplane with him, then fly it back in a combination instructional/ferry flight. Jarema agreed and Balogh wound up buying the airplane, receiving his first flight lessons on the way home.

The fact that Balogh earned his sport pilot certificate while his son is still in flight training for his private ticket is not lost on him. “Age and craftiness trumps youth and intelligence every time,” he quipped. Balogh plans to keep building time in the aircraft to become a more capable pilot. “I’ll keep practicing takeoffs and landings flying around northern Michigan.”

Balogh has this advice for seasoned citizens who may have an unrequited flight dream. “Anyone who is 80 years old and wants to fly, go fly! Keep moving because then he can’t hit you.” (“He” being the grim reaper.)

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