Each time pilot Kevin Kegin takes to the skies it is with the confidence and sense of serenity that he is doing his life’s calling.
The owner of six classic airplanes, Kegin a pilot and mechanic who has flown from Florida to Alaska, “I’ve not been in every state, but I've been in most of them and most of the time upside down.”
“Whenever I have the time I get in one of my planes and fly,” Kegin said late Thursday evening as he was preparing for his trip to Sedalia. “There is just such an immense sense of enjoyment every time I fly.
“I’ve had a couple of real jobs where I got paid to do the work,” he commented. “I don’t ever want to do that again. There is a sense of freedom and wonder and magic with flying.”
Kegan said he always wanted to be a pilot. The influence of his father played a role in his desire to fly. Although he never flew, Kegan’s father served in the Air Corps in World War II. He and his father would spend a great deal of time together at the airport.
Although he is not certain when his “affinity for flight first began,” Kegan said he knew he always wanted to fly historic aircraft.
“I would say in high school I became interested in the older planes, those from WWII, the 1920’s and 30s’, the old stuff,” Kegin explained. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do but it was expensive so I had to give it up.”
Kegin owns six planes, two of which are project planes that he is working on restoring.
“Nothing that I have is under 71 years,” Kegin noted “That’s plenty old for most people.”
According to Kegin, his planes are not that different than modern airplanes except that they are often not as quiet and are not as fast.
“They are conventional airplanes meaning that they sit on the tail and not on the nose,” Kegin explained. “Most of the planes you see today sit on the nose and they are much, much easier to fly.
“They have big propellers and big engines, that sat on the tail so they could accommodate rougher fields,” he continued. “In the early days of flying there weren’t runways every place. The runways were grass or hay fields or farm land. These conventional airplanes fare much better in that kind of environment.”
The planes are more difficult to control, take-off and land but those are the only real differences according to Kegin. When they are in flight they, “fly pretty much the same.”
“All airplanes have engines, two wings and the same components, but I guess a good way to put it is it’s kind of like the difference between driving a stick shift and driving an automatic,” he said. “You just can’t get in and drive a stick shift if you’ve never done it before.”
Kegin described the planes as more of a challenge to the pilot which is sometimes fun and sometimes not so fun depending on the circumstances.
“I used to travel 360 days a year, pretty much full time in my business which is selling airplanes rides mostly in the WWII T-6 Texan that I fly,” he said. “I used to do between 1,500 to 2,200 rides a year.
“I would travel with my crew. If you are doing rides and trying to sell rides you need to travel just as Barnum used to do with his circus,” he continued. “You just can’t stay in one spot and expect to be successful so you travel. I’m a barnstormer you do it with your airplane and a trailer full of airplane parts and a big enough crew to make it happen.”
Today, Kegin admits he doesn’t travel as much. He still sells airplane rides and teaches flying. Instead of traveling, customers come to him for the rides.
“I don’t travel like I used to. I go to maybe two or three events a year,” Kegin commented. “In fact, I traveled for so many years I didn’t even have a home.
“I didn’t need one. I was on the road so much,” he added. “But now I live on the airport in Salem, Illinois, and I also have a little house in St. Louis.”
According to Kegin he does what he does because of his passion for it.
“I do what I do because I’m just really drawn to it period,” he explained. “When I have time in the evening or the morning I just do like others would do what they love to do. I just get in my plane and fly there is just such a tremendous sense of enjoyment.
“An airplane is just such an amazing vessel,” he continued. “There’s a lot of satisfaction to it when you fly an airplane well or on a windy day, or make a good landing. It’s just like baseball players they get paid a lot of money to hit the field and throw and some days they can do that and some days they can’t do any of it… Flying is a little bit like that too. Every day and every flight is a little bit different. It’s a challenge that never stops. And as long as you don’t run out of money to buy gas it’s pretty engaging.”
Kegin said he does fly by himself, but 95% of his time is spent flying with customers.
“I’d say I’ve flown upward of 20,000 people one maybe two at a time in various airplanes so I share this with them,” he said. “It’s a new experience for them and that’s what I love to take part in.
“It’s kind of like being a kid at Christmas,” he explained. “If you’ve been through enough Christmases they kind of loose a little of the magic, but that’s what’s special about this you get to bring the magic to them (through the flights). It’s just a magical experience for them that I can help create.”
Kegin was originally set to arrive in Sedalia at the request of Dr. Doug Kiburz for the Wheelman Convention July 24- 28. Becky Carr Imhauser had given Kiburz a historical postcard depicting the Wright Brothers Flight over the Missouri State Fairgrounds in 1910. Kegin was hoping to recreate the flight for the Wheelman Event. Kegin could not make the trip at that time due to a mechanical part he needed for the plane describing the situation as “something I felt terrible about.”
“It’s not like you can just go down to O’Rileys and get a part for these planes,” he noted. “Generally, they run like a top but when something happens, it takes a little time to get the parts. Don’t want to bring the plane down unless it is performing well and I don’t want to put people in the plane unless it is performing well. I told Doug I would come down later if there was still interest and Saturday (today) is later.”
Kegin will be in town today and possibly Sunday to take people on paid flights in the skies over Sedalia.
“I flew in high school and was supposed to go to flying in college but I just couldn’t afford it,” Kegin said. “So, I got out of that and became a musician for many years. I had found something else (music) that I really liked.
“I got out of that in the early to mid 80s, when my hands wouldn’t let me play the fiddle any longer and I started thinking about what I wanted to do from then on and so I started thinking about getting back to flying and decided to do that,” Kegin said. “I’ve been flying with my own license going on 40 years I guess. Which sounds like a ton but I’m not a spring chicken either and time flies when you’re flying.”
Kegin said he feels he has been lucky, especially with the people he’s met through his flights.
“You know in this business you are subject to the weather and to mechanical issues, but I hate to disappoint the people if something happens and I can’t take them on the flight,” Kegin said. You have to remember, I’m an old barnstormer and it hurts my feelings when I can’t share the experience.”
More information about booking a flight with Kevin Kegin can be found at www.americanwarbird.com.