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Dream Comes True for Longtime Copperstate Head Judge

P-51 Ride
Doug Slade, rear seat, got his dream flight in Red Dog thanks to pilot Larry Perkins.

P-51 Ride
Slade and Perkins return from their flight.

October 27, 2010 — Doug Slade, EAA 109639, has been the head of aircraft judging at Copperstate for 28 years, and he’s has also been an AirVenture Oshkosh judge since 1986. A private pilot since 1954, Doug has owned 22 aircraft, built a Glasair, and rebuilt a Luscombe, two Stinsons, and a Bellanca. He’s also an A&P with inspection authorization and still owns a Cessna 195, Piper Comanche, Glasair, Luscombe, Swift, and Schweizer glider.

But even with all those airplanes and all that flight experiences, he’s always had a dream to one day fly in a P-51 Mustang.

At last week’s Copperstate Fly-In, Doug’s dream came true.

“Any time Doug and I discuss aircraft, the P-51 Mustang always comes up,” said Rick Fernau, EAA 241330, chief photographer for the fly-in. “His wife of 48 years, Rita, told me that a flight in a P-51 was a lifelong dream.” Doug’s been having some health issues lately and Rick decided to try and make it happen for him this year.

So late Saturday morning, October 23, as the aircraft judging was about completed , Doug and several other judges (all from EAA Chapter 586) were wrapping things up with tome late-arriving aircraft.

“We were all near the P-51 Red Dog when I overheard Doug mentioning to one of his fellow judges that a ride in a Mustang was something he always wanted to do,” Rick explained. “My wife, Kim, whispered to me that we needed to get Doug a ride in that airplane.” Rick decided to approach the pilot, Larry Perkins, and ask if a ride for Doug might be possible. Perkins was more than willing to fulfill his lifelong dream with a flight. “Come back at 3 p.m. and we’ll give Doug his ride,” he told Rick.

Rick told Rita what had been arranged and she immediately broke down in tears of joy. He asked her to tell her husband later when all the chapter judges, including Doug, were gathered in the office.

“I began telling Doug how much we appreciated his patience with all of us, and how much we have all learned because of his guidance and direction,” Fernau said, then asked Rita to give him the big news. “She started crying again and, through the tears said, ‘You’re going to ride in the P-51 today.’”

His first reaction was disbelief.  “I can’t believe this. I just can’t believe this,” he said. “I realized that Rita told me so I did I believe it.” Doug called the P-51 “The ultimate fighter, as far as I’m concerned.” And he really enjoyed his flight.

“It was super. The pilot was most courteous and as helpful as he could be. We made a nice, low pass and a high-speed pitchout.

“It was a dream come true.”

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