Jun 24, 2013 12:13 PM by Czarina Nafarrate

1913 flight over Michigan Lake to be recreated

TUCSON - Pioneer aviator Logan A. "Jack" Vilas made aviation history on July 1, 1913, when he was the first person to fly an airplane across Lake Michigan and a century later, this historic event will be recreated.

Faith Vilas, Jack's granddaughter, will recreate that journey next Monday, July 1, on the event's 100th anniversary. She will pilot a Cessna 185 amphibious plane from Southwest Regional Airport in St. Joseph/Benton Harbor, Mich. to the Navy Pier in Chicago, Ill.

Jack Vilas was the sixth person in the United States to gain a seaplane pilot's license. He made the first Lake Michigan crossing at age 21, 14 years before Charles Lindbergh made the first non-stop solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.

Faith Vilas, is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson as well as a third-generation pilot. She is making the journey to commemorate her grandfather's groundbreaking feat.

"We're into our second century of flight, built on the achievements of aviators in the early 1900s, including my grandfather," Vilas said. "I want to honor him with this flight."

She came up with the idea for the commemorate flight about five years ago, and spent the past two years planning and working out details.She said flying is in her genes. Her grandfather Jack, father Jack Jr. and aunt Ariel all flew.

"I grew up thinking anyone could be a pilot," she said. While the Lake Michigan crossing marks the conclusion of a long effort of planning and training, Vilas has plans for even loftier aviation adventures.

She is eager to go up into space as part of PSI's Atsa Suborbital Observatory project that will see scientists and students operate a telescope while aboard a reusable spacecraft, XCOR Aerospace's Lynx.

Atsa will provide low-cost space-based observations above the limiting atmosphere of Earth, while avoiding some operational constraints of satellite telescope systems such as the inability to observe objects close to the Sun.

"It will be fantastic to fly and use the Atsa in suborbital space," she said. "Open human spaceflight is our future."

Vilas, a licensed seaplane pilot based in Seabrook, Texas, said her flight will take approximately 60 minutes depending on weather conditions.


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