Taking flight in NilesPublished 7:56am Friday, April 19, 2013
NILES — Dave Cooper can’t replace the feeling of being in a cockpit, piloting a small aircraft through the skies over southwestern Michigan.
“The scenery is just awesome,” said Cooper, of Niles. “You have the freedom to fly like a bird, go where you want to go and enjoy seeing what you want to see.”
Cooper has turned his joy of flying into a growing business. He is the director of U.S. operations for Team Mini-Max, a company that offers small aircraft kits and plans to people who want to build their own ultralight or experimental planes. It opened in August in a hangar at the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport in Niles.
If you want to fly, an ultralight aircraft is one of the least expensive ways to get started. A pilot’s license isn’t necessary depending on what model you fly.
Cooper was swamped with orders on a Tuesday morning in mid April. He said his company ships kits nationally and internationally, including as far away as the Philippines, France, Spain and the West African country of Ghana.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, there are a lot of people who want these kit planes,” he said.
Cooper got his first itch to fly 30 years ago when he saw an ultralight aircraft in flight near a small airport in Dunlap, Ind.
He took lessons and was up in the air in no time.
“Oh, it was awesome,” he said.
Since then, Cooper has built several planes to own and sell, including ones painted in the theme of comic book super heroes Batman and Spiderman.
Cooper’s “spiderplane,” which just sold, still sits in a hangar at the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport.
Cooper said ultralight planes top out at 63 miles per hour and can travel about 90 miles before refueling. He said he’s flown as far as Knox, Ind.
If you can’t find Cooper building kits at Team Mini-Max in Niles, you’ll likely find him in the sky.
“If I have the time to do it, I jump in and go. Even if its just flying patterns around the airport, it’s fun.” he said.
For more information, visit the Team Mini-Max website at www.teammini-max.com.
Contact Cooper by phone at (574) 214-3660.
Team Mini-Max is holding a fly-in lunch tour from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday at the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport, 2018 Lake St., Niles. People can fly in or drive in. Parking is free, and door prizes will be awarded.
Cooper said it is the perfect opportunity for people to see what ultralight aviation is all about.