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Navy Growlers Come to OSH
Young Eagle Fulfills Dream
By Barbara A. Schmitz
Paul Lietzan was just 6 years old when he took a Young Eagles flight, but more than two decades later, he says he still has one regret.
“After only 10 minutes, I said I wanted to land,” said Lietzan, now a lieutenant and U.S. Navy electronic tactics instructor for the EA-18G Growler. “It was an open cockpit airplane and I remember going through the clouds like I was touching them. Once we got on the ground, I knew I wanted to go back up.”
An Appleton, Wisconsin native, Lietzan said he attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for 12 years, and in high school, worked in the Sky Shoppe selling T-shirts. For four years, his family also hosted multiple F-14 aircrews in their home.
“I was always interested in aviation, thanks to my mom and dad and Oshkosh,” he said. “I used to have a (child’s cardboard) encyclopedia of military aircraft on a ring and I would learn all about the different planes. But hosting the F-14 crew sealed my decision.”
The Growler is a two-seat craft run by its pilot and the tactical officer. On Friday, Lietzan arrived at AirVenture in the style he had always hoped. He and his pilot flew into Oshkosh in the jet, a specialized version of the F-18 Super Hornet, just before the afternoon air show began.
“Flying in was easier than I anticipated due to the low ceiling,” he said. “We arrived just minutes before the air show, so it was very quiet except for four T-6s.”
With the plane stopped on the runway, he looked up and saw his dad, Ernie. In fact, 14 members of the family were on hand to greet him. “It really was a very proud moment for me as a parent,” his dad said.
But with Boeing Centennial Plaza full, they were forced to park the flight of two jets on Runway 13/31. Ernie said he looked so crestfallen, that someone agreed to drive him to where the jet was being parked.
Lietzan said he had been lobbying to fly a Growler into Oshkosh for years. “But this year everything lined up nicely. It’s really been a dream of mine, and to have it fulfilled is pretty neat.”
He also has a few other dreams on his bucket list, including building an aircraft with his brothers and earning his pilot’s certificate. He’d also like to fly back into Oshkosh, and this time able to display his plane at air show center.
While he admits he’s seen “almost everything” that is at Oshkosh multiple times, he said he planned to visit Warbirds and watch the air show again.
He also has a message for youth who are interested in aviation. “If you want to do something badly enough, you can do it,” Lietzan said. “Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t. I believe you make your own luck by working hard. The key to success lies in your personal drive.”