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The Texas Gooney Bird

Guest post from Paul Proske, new pilot

As my wife will tell you, I describe myself as a pilot, a business owner, and an optometrist…in that order.  Most conversations that I have with her or the kids will quickly turn to aviation.  Go figure.

As a young boy, I would often go to the local VFW hall with my parents.   On the backside of this VFW was Weiser Airpark, where I would sneak and spend hours watching small aircraft take off and land.  That is when the aviation bug first bit me.

Years later when I was in college I went out to Easterwood field in College Station and took my first lesson.  After that first flight I was officially addicted to aviation.  My instructors out there were college kids too, and they put me through the paces.  

In a little Cessna 152 I would do spins but would not be allowed to recover until they said the word.  We would go do simulated engine failures but I could not add power again until the gear actually brushed the bushes on some unknowing farmer’s land.  Those were fun times!  I could only fly when I had enough money for a lesson, which was not often.  But after I finished college, finally I got my private pilot’s certificate.

After I graduated, I went to grad school, got a job, got married, again went back to school, got another job…and completely stopped flying for over two decades.  But the itch hit me once again.  In 2014 I started flying again, bought an airplane and later got my IFR (instrument) rating.  

My plane is a 1973 Piper Challenger, more widely known as a Cherokee 180.  I call it the “Texas Gooney Bird” (  The name is in dedication to my late father.  He was the crew chief on a C-47 Skytrain in the European Theater of World War II.  His crew called him “Tex.”  The C-47’s nickname in Europe was the “Gooney Bird.”  Also the man I purchased my aircraft from is a direct descendant of Sam Houston.  Thus the plane’s name, “Texas Gooney Bird.”

One day, I heard a pilot on the radio that had “Angel Flight” in his call sign, which peaked my curiosity.  I went to the web and looked up Angel Flight and found out what they do.  What a great way to give back to our brothers and sisters in need!  I knew from that moment that I too would become an Angel Flight pilot.  Flying Angel Flights is honestly one of the most satisfying things I have ever done.


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