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Family, colleagues welcome MTSU pilot after 29-day journey

He has flown a family-owned, four-seat airplane 6,600 miles. He has touched and been touched by the past, present and future of aviation.

David, left, and Lorrie McDonald hug their son Collin after he emerged from the 21-year-old family plane, nicknamed “Molly,” June 16 at Murfreesboro Airport. Collin McDonald returned from a nearly 30-day trip that included flying coast to coast, retracing the route Cal Rodgers took in 1911 in his Vin Fiz plane. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

David, left, and Lorrie McDonald hug their son Collin after he emerged from the 21-year-old family plane, nicknamed “Molly,” June 16 at Murfreesboro Airport. Collin McDonald returned from a nearly 30-day trip that included flying coast to coast, retracing the route Cal Rodgers took in 1911 in his Vin Fiz plane. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald flew to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where Orville and Wilbur Wright’s plane took flight in 1903.

He toured aviation museums around the country. He spent time at the Grand Canyon and other U.S. landmarks. He wrote a blog, conducted research for an Honors College thesis and promoted aviation to young people and adults.

And someday, when he has children and grandchildren, the young man who admits to becoming a storyteller on his nearly monthlong voyage will have volumes of stories about retracing the flight path of aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in flying from Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California,

On June 16, the Carthage, Tennessee, native arrived back home at Murfreesboro Airport to the welcome form his family and from MTSU students, faculty and staff from the university’s Department of Aerospace and the Honors College.

“I’m excited to be home. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed,” McDonald said. “One of the lessons I learned is that you can always fly tomorrow if there’s an issue. … I’m looking forward to the next step (in the thesis project), but I’m glad to complete this part.”

McDonald completed his transcontinental, “Vin Fiz 2” quest June 11 in Long Beach. He called the trip “Vin Fiz 2” because Rodgers’ plane was called “The Vin Fiz.”

For more on his trip, visit https://vinfizflight.wordpress.com, www.facebook.com/vinfizflight and www.imgrum.net/user/capt_mac/1424764353.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

MTSU professor Joe Hawkins, right, congratulates Collin McDonald after the senior aerospace maintenance management major arrived at Murfreesboro Airport June 16. University Honors College Dean John Vile, shown standing behind McDonald, welcomed the student home and brought a cake celebrating the successful journey.

MTSU professor Joe Hawkins, right, congratulates Collin McDonald after the senior aerospace maintenance management major arrived at Murfreesboro Airport June 16. University Honors College Dean John Vile, shown standing behind McDonald, welcomed the student home and brought a cake celebrating the successful journey.

MTSU senior aerospace major Collin McDonald displays a “Welcome Back Vin Fiz 2” cake given to him by Dr. John Vile and the University Honors College June 16 at Murfreesboro Airport. McDonald successfully completed the coast-to-coast trip for an Honors thesis and to promote aviation among young people.

MTSU senior aerospace major Collin McDonald displays a “Welcome Back Vin Fiz 2” cake given to him by Dr. John Vile and the University Honors College June 16 at Murfreesboro Airport. McDonald successfully completed the coast-to-coast trip for an honors thesis and to promote aviation among young people.


MTSU student reaches Long Beach, achieves cross-country quest

June 12, 2016

LONG BEACH, Calif. — From Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California, Middle Tennessee State University senior Collin McDonald has traveled 4,300 miles to promote aviation among young people and adults and work toward an Honors College thesis project.

In traveling the flight path aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers took in 1911, McDonald, 22, of Carthage, Tennessee, reached Long Beach Airport June 11. His mother, Lorrie McDonald, who had flown from Nashville, Tennessee, greeted him after his 25-day journey in the 21-year-old, family-owned Maule MX-7-160 airplane nicknamed “Molly.”

Holding an MTSU "I am True Blue" sign after arriving at the Long Beach, Calif., Airport June 11, senior Collin McDonald of Carthage, Tenn., stands in front of "Molly," the four-seat Maule MX-7-160 airplane he flew 4,300 miles across the country in the 1991 flight path of aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. McDonald accomplished this for an Honors College thesis project and to promote aviation to young people and adults at the 75 stops along the way. (Photo by Lorrie McDonald/vinfizflight.wordpress.com)

Holding an MTSU “I am True Blue” sign after arriving at the Long Beach, Calif., Airport June 11, senior Collin McDonald of Carthage, Tenn., stands in front of “Molly,” the four-seat Maule MX-7-160 airplane he flew 4,300 miles across the country in the 1991 flight path of aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. McDonald accomplished this for an Honors College thesis project and to promote aviation to young people and adults at the 75 stops along the way. (Photo by Lorrie McDonald/vinfizflight.wordpress.com)

“The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul,” Collin McDonald wrote in his blog in summing up the experience. “It truly has been a remarkable adventure and it isn’t over yet.

“All things considered, I have been blessed with safe flights the entire way and the chance to represent the Honors College and Aerospace Department in such a national way,” he added. “I have plenty of stories … and look forward to being home again.”

Collin McDonald has a 4.0 GPA in aerospace maintenance management and is an Honors College Buchanan scholarship recipient.

After graduating from MTSU, he plans to become a missionary pilot. For more on his journey, visit https://vinfizflight.wordpress.com.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, and his mother, Lorrie McDonald, both from Carthage, Tennessee, hold a sign she and her husband, David McDonald, had made to congratulate their son for accomplishing his goal to fly coast-to-coast for an Honors College thesis project. Flying a plane nicknamed "Molly," Collin McDonald landed at the Long Beach, California, Airport June 11. (Photo submitted)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, and his mother, Lorrie McDonald, both from Carthage, Tenn., hold a sign she and her husband, David McDonald, had made to congratulate their son for accomplishing his goal to fly coast to coast for an Honors College thesis project. Flying a plane nicknamed “Molly,” Collin McDonald landed at the Long Beach, Calif., Airport June 11. (Photo submitted)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, receives a hug from his mother, Lorrie McDonald upon meeting him at Long Beach (California) Airport June 11. Collin McDonald, an MTSU senior aerospace maintenance management major from Carthage, Tennessee, completed a 25-day, 4,300-mile transcontinental flight quest from Long Island, New York, to Long Beach. (Submitted photo)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, receives a hug from his mother, Lorrie McDonald, as she greeted him at the Long Beach, Calif., Airport June 11. The aerospace maintenance management major from Carthage, Tenn., completed a 25-day, 4,300-mile transcontinental flight quest from Long Island, N.Y., to Long Beach. Photo submitted)

 


Retracing aviation history, MTSU senior has flight to remember

June 2, 2016

As MTSU senior Collin McDonald approaches the halfway point in his transcontinental Vin Fiz 2 quest, his attempt to retrace the flight path that aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers achieved in 1911 in his plane called The Vin Fiz has already allowed him to:

  • Fly in a replica of a plane built by the Wright brothers in Dayton, Ohio.
  • Receive a personal tour of Hawthorn Hill, Orville Wright’s home in Oakwood, Ohio, from descendent Stephen Wright, who also gave McDonald an autographed copy of the Wright Flyer schematics.
  • Stand beneath Rodgers’ slightly restored Vin Fiz at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
  • Visit Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where the Wrights experienced the first flight in 1903.
With the horizon in view, Collin McDonald soars above the Oklahoma landscape on a great day for flying. Stormy weather in the Great Plains and other parts of the country has slowed his progress. He sports an MTSU NASA FOCUS Lab T-shirt. The lab recreates pilot-control tower situations and communication with air traffic control personnel. (Photo from www.facebook/vinfizflight)

With the horizon in view, Collin McDonald soars above the Oklahoma landscape on a great day for flying. Stormy weather in the Great Plains and other parts of the country has slowed his progress. He sports an MTSU NASA FOCUS Lab T-shirt. The lab recreates pilot-control tower situations and communication with air traffic control personnel. (Photo from www.facebook/vinfizflight)

McDonald, 22, of Carthage, Tennessee, an aerospace maintenance management major with a 4.0 GPA in the University Honors College, expects to head toward Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas, Thursday, June 2, weather permitting, after spending time in southeast Kansas.

McDonald is making the trip as part of an Honors College thesis project and to promote aviation to young people and adults at all of the approximately 75 stops he will make as he travels from the East Coast to the West Coast in his family’s 1995 Maule MX-7-160, a four-seat plane nicknamed “Molly.”

Rodgers needed 50 days to travel from Sheepshead Bay on Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California, becoming the first to fly cross-country.

The 1911 pilot had a number of crashes and incidents along the way. Thus far on the 2016 trip, McDonald’s major issue has been weather.

“This has probably been the most unplanned yet rewarding and exciting day of the entire trip thus far,” McDonald wrote on Facebook as the Memorial Day holiday weekend approached.

Mom Lorrie McDonald had driven from Carthage to Dayton to join him for several days. “We had some plans,” Collin wrote, “but the unusual sound that I hear around 8:30 a.m. altered all that.

“As I look out the window for something that I audibly couldn’t identify, I was met with the strangest sight I have ever seen,” he added. “An aircraft slowly crept into view, passing just to the right and a few hundred feet above climbing. It was no ordinary aircraft. It looked like the Wright Brothers’ Flyer!

“We were planning on going to the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport at some point in the day, but I told Mom we had to leave NOW so I could figure out what I had just seen.”

At the museum, McDonald discovered the facility not only had a replica of the Wright Flyer, but a flying one.

“For a hundred bucks, they would take you up on a flight,” he wrote. “Well, you only live once! So I set it up to come back around 11:30 and have a flight in what would be the most amazing aircraft I have ever flown.”

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Jay Jabour flew McDonald in the Wright “B” Flyer.

“The ride wasn’t long, but it was incredible,” McDonald wrote, admitting he had an “extremely dry mouth from where I had been smiling so much that the wind dried out all my salivary glands.”

From Dallas, McDonald will continue west through New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California. In all, McDonald expects to fly 4,300 miles on the Rogers path and 7,200 miles altogether.

Follow McDonald’s journey, which includes photos, video and blogs, on the following social media outlets:

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

 


MTSU senior’s flight of a lifetime retraces pioneer’s path [+VIDEO]

May 20, 2016

MTSU senior Collin McDonald of Carthage, Tennessee, left Murfreesboro May 19 to begin a monthlong adventure that eventually will take him on a cross-country journey following a route taken by aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers more than 100 years ago.

McDonald, 22, who is a 4.0 GPA student majoring in aerospace maintenance management, plans to take 30 days to complete the flight he is calling “Vin Fiz2” in tribute to Rodgers’ plane — “The Vin Fiz,” named for a grape soda.

McDonald, a Buchanan Fellow in MTSU’s University Honors College, said he anticipates making at least 100 stops along the way.

 

https://youtu.be/cem7_7_n65o

Rodgers made the first transcontinental airplane flight across the United States beginning Sept. 11, 1911 — coincidentally, the same day MTSU first opened for classes as Middle Tennessee State Normal School — and ending Nov. 5.

The pilot reportedly had dozens of stops during his two-month flight, both scheduled and accidental, and became an instant national celebrity.Rodgers died in a plane crash, however, during an April 1912 exhibition in California.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald adds airplane fuel to the wing of his 21-year-old Maule aircraft, nicknamed "Molly," May 19 at Murfreesboro Airport. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald adds airplane fuel to the wing of his 21-year-old Maule aircraft, nicknamed “Molly,” May 19 at Murfreesboro Airport. (MTSU photos by Randy Weiler)

“I am retracing his route from New York to Long Beach (California) via Chicago and Dallas,” McDonald said. “The whole purpose of the trip is to get more young people and adults alike — but especially the next generation — involved with general aviation.”

McDonald, who also is making the trip for his honors thesis project, said general aviation in young adults “has significantly declined in the last 20 years, and what that’s going to cause in the future is a massive pilot shortage as well as additional funding required to sponsor FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and general aviation programs.”

Before heading to New York to start the transcontinental flight from Long Island, New York, two of his first stops will include Beaufort, North Carolina, May 20-21 for an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association fly-in at Michael J. Smith Field. He then plans to travel on to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, site of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight in 1903.

The family-owned airplane McDonald is flying on the trip is a 1995 four-passenger Maule MX-7-160, nicknamed “Molly” and only a year younger than he is.

McDonald plans daily updates on Facebook at “Vin Fiz Flight” as well as regular blog posts at VinFizflight.wordpress.com. He will fly an average of six hours a day.

McDonald is funding his trip through aerospace and Honors College scholarships, a GoFundMe account and a recent sale of commemorative T-shirts.

This fall, there will be three McDonalds attending MTSU on full-tuition Buchanan Fellowships. Collin and his brother, fellow senior Connor McDonald, the 2016-17 Student Government Association vice president, entered the university together in 2013, and sister Delanie McDonald will be a freshman this fall.

This marks the first time that three members of the same family are enrolled at MTSU with Buchanan awards, the highest academic scholarship at the university. They were home-schooled by their mother, Lorrie McDonald. (You can read more about them here.)

Honors College Dean John Vile and members of his staff joined Collin McDonald’s parents, aerospace maintenance management faculty member Bill Allen and Madison Tracy, 2016-17 Student Government Association president, to see him off May 19.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald's visit to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton included stopping by the Blackbird exhibit. It was the only aircraft to never be shot down while deployed on missions. McDonald, of Carthage, Tennessee, is retracing the Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California, route that aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers took in 1911. Rodgers was trained by Ohio natives the Wright Brothers. His plane, nicknamed Molly, is parked at Wright Brothers Field. (Submitted photo)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald visits the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, and includes a stop by the Blackbird exhibit, the only aircraft never shot down while deployed on missions. The Carthage, Tenn., native is retracing the Long Island, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif., route that aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers took in 1911. McDonald’s plane, nicknamed “Molly,” is parked at Wright Brothers Field. (Submitted photo)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald visits the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., May 23. He stands under the Vin Fiz plane flown by aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. Later this week, for part of an Honors College thesis project, McDonald will begin the same transcontinental route — Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California — that Rodgers took. McDonald is calling the trip "Vin Fiz 2." (Submitted photo)

Collin McDonald visits the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., May 23 and stands under the Vin Fiz plane flown by aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers in 1911. Later this week, for part of an Honors College thesis project, McDonald will begin the same transcontinental route — Long Island, N.Y., to Long Beach, Calif. — that Rodgers took. McDonald is calling the trip “Vin Fiz 2.” (Submitted photo)

Taking a day off from flying his cross-country quest, Collin McDonald took in Niagara Falls with friends from Rochester, New York. (Photo from https://www.facebook.com/vinfizflight/)

Taking a day off from flying his cross-country quest, Collin McDonald enjoys Niagara Falls with friends from Rochester, N.Y. (Photo submitted)

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, and his mother, Lorrie McDonald, both of Carthage, Tennessee, take a photo May 19 just before Collin left Murfreesboro on his 30-day quest to follow aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers' flight path from New York to Long Beach, California.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald, left, and his mother, Lorrie McDonald, both of Carthage, Tenn., take a photo May 19 just before Collin left Murfreesboro on his 30-day quest to follow aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers’ flight path from New York to Long Beach, Calif.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald holds a commemorative set showing a 1911 photo of Cal Rodgers flying his plane, The Vin Fiz, and a piece of cloth from the plane. McDonald, who flew out of Murfreesboro Airport May 19, took the item with him on his plane.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald holds a commemorative set showing a 1911 photo of Cal Rodgers flying his plane, The Vin Fiz, and a piece of cloth from the plane. McDonald, who flew out of Murfreesboro Airport May 19, took the item with him on his plane.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald makes final checks on his 21-year-old Maule airplane, nicknamed "Molly," May 19 at Murfreesboro Airport as he begins a 30-day journey to fly from New York to Long Beach, California.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald makes final checks on his 21-year-old Maule airplane, nicknamed “Molly,” May 19 at Murfreesboro Airport as he begins a 30-day journey to fly from New York to Long Beach, Calif.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald maneuvers his Maule airplane skyward from Murfreesboro Airport May 19 to begin a 30-day quest to follow aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers' route from New York to Long Beach, California.

MTSU senior Collin McDonald maneuvers his Maule airplane skyward from Murfreesboro Airport May 19 to begin a 30-day quest to follow aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers’ route from New York to Long Beach, Calif.

This graphic from the Wright Brothers Museum website) shows aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers' Vin Fiz transcontinental route in 1911.

This graphic from the Wright Brothers Museum website shows aviation pioneer Cal Rodgers’ Vin Fiz transcontinental route in 1911.