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11 September 2013

Walt Sitz, Eagle Wings, Inc. – A Man on a Mission

Walt Sitz is a man on a mission – and he’s making a hovercraft part of that mission.  He signed up for training at HTC before his hovercraft purchase. “Training should be the first step in any vehicle. You don’t just jump in a plane and say ‘I think I can figure it out.’ If you can’t, the alternatives are not good!”

His wife Pat, who listened to Walt's entire flight training via wireless headsets, adds, “It’s like flying an airplane; you have to fly so many hours before you can solo, and can’t get a license until you’ve done 40 hours.

They should know: Walt has been in the aviation business for 25 years – from piloting planes to aircraft maintenance and repair to marketing powered parachutes and more. “I was raised on a ranch, and when a plane would fly over, I always said ‘That’s what I want to do,’” he explains. “It’s in my blood.”

Even though he’s one of those lucky people who’ve turned their hobbies into their life’s work, Walt doesn’t see recreational vehicles as just for pleasure. He says, “From way back I’ve always first thought, ‘How can it be used to help people.’ Boats, parachutes, snowmobiles, motorcycles, four wheelers – they can all be used to help people.

His company, Eagle Wings, Inc. in Burns, Oregon, is affiliated with Crisis Response International, a non-profit organization that provides rescue and relief support to humanitarian missions worldwide. Walt explains what sparked his interest in hovercraft: “I deployed to New York for Hurricane Sandy – loaded our Forest Ranger with all my tools and equipment and used it to set up a base camp. You can try to row a boat through the flood debris, but if I could deploy with a hovercraft, that’s what would be used. It’s a natural addition.”

After thorough classroom training, Walt began his flight training with a complete preflight inspection, guided by HTC chief instructor Chris Fitzgerald ...

With  a thumbs-up, the training craft is launched onto the Wabash River, where Walt will soon take over the controls. His positive attitude serves him well - as his wife Pat describes him, "Don't tell him he can't, because he can!" ...

And he did! His day at HTC boosted Walt's "can-do" confidence: "We got into one spot that you could never get into with a boat or anything else, and we turned around right in this tree with barely enough room for the craft and the current running fast through the tree. You could have rescued someone off that tree. That showed me right there what a hovercraft can do. It was pretty unbelievable!"

After a productive training day, Walt receives his pilot certification from Chris Fitzgerald ...

Now on to his next mission: with his natural mechanical bent, Walt has chosen to build his own hovercraft from a Neoteric Partially-Assembled Hovercraft Kit.


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