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Flying Ace

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  • | 8:29 p.m. May 1, 2012
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Name: Dave Dale

Age: 53

Position: President

Company: Owen-Ames-Kimball Company

Industry: Construction

Headquarters: Fort Myers

Passion: Flying airplanes. Dale owns a Cessna 310 that he keeps in a hangar at his airpark home in north Fort Myers.

How he started flying: “My mom and dad were pilots; they flew for pleasure,” Dale says. “I started flying in my early 20s. I was going to escape construction and get into commercial flying.”

Flying for a living: “I did have an offer from Aloha Airlines,” Dale says. It was in 1987 and the pay was $10 an hour (flight time only) as a co-pilot on a DeHavilland Twin Otter. It was a part-time job for 80 hours a month and you had to be ready within 45 minutes' notice any time. “It was in Hawaii, where a loaf of bread was $3,” Dale says. He turned down the offer.

Crop duster: Dale took a job as a crop duster in Kansas for a few years in the late 1980s, a kind of flying that requires precision and daring because you're flying 10 feet off the top of the crops. Flying under power lines was routine. “It's a lot quicker to go underneath,” Dale smiles. “I've had to miss deer,” he says. “It paid 65 cents an acre,” says Dale, who said he could spray 500 acres on a good day. “I never crashed,” he says. “It's not as death-defying as it might look.”

Aerobatic flying: Dale did some aerobatic flying when he was younger. “It just pushes the envelope on flying, and you can do it safely if you have the right equipment,” Dale says.

Air sickness: “The only reason I ever was sick on a plane was when I was hung over.”

Flight instructor: Dale maintains his flight-instructor license, but he doesn't consider himself a good teacher because he says he lacks the patience. Teaching a person who's never flown before is more challenging than someone with experience. Plus, the demands of running a construction company don't leave much time for giving flying lessons.

Flying commercial: Dale rarely flies commercial, and he doesn't like it when he has to. “There's no part of it that's enjoyable now,” Dale says. “Now, it's just an inconvenience.”

Stay cool: You have to be ready for any emergency that might arise and sometimes act counter-intuitively to maintain airspeed. “You can't duck or wince,” Dale says. “You have to focus on what you need to do.”

What's on his to-fly list: “I've never flown helicopters, so that's on my list,” Dale says. “A few years ago I got my seaplane rating.”

Favorite plane: Dale loved flying a Waco bi-plane with its open-air cockpit and loud engine. “It flies like a truck,” he laughs.

Fringe benefits: One of the pluses of owning a plane is that you get invited to fishing and hunting trips because you can fly your buddies there quickly. For example, he's planning a trip to Rum Cay in the Bahamas to fish with Steve Shimp, Owen-Ames-Kimball's retired chief executive. “It's a 35-minute run to the Keys,” he says.

It doesn't add up: There's no way to justify a private plane if finances were all that counted. Dale uses it to get to distant job sites and shoot aerials of construction projects, but even then he doesn't charge the company. “It's almost impossible to make an airplane pencil out.” Costs include hangar space, engine-maintenance, fuel and insurance.


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