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Longtime Cloverdale pilot helps those in need

His love of flying might make it seem Ed Dalbec has his head in the clouds. His friends will tell you, though, he is a rock-solid guy whose heart is in Cloverdale and whose feet are planted firmly on the ground.

Having had one plane or another hangared there for the past 44 years, Dalbec is the “senior tenant” at the Cloverdale Municipal Airport, which will hold its annual Open House and Fly-In on Saturday.

He first started flying in 1972. His dad and he went in as partners to purchase his first plane, a Cessna 140. Today, he flies a Beechcraft Bonanza.

Retired at 55 from United Airlines, where he had been an airplane mechanic for many years, 71-year-old Dalbec says he enjoys flying because it is fun to take people places. He also flies “angel flights,” ferrying people who are far from the medical care they need to the appropriate locations.

He regularly flies several members of his Cloverdale Lions Club to conventions and other out-of-town events, and recently flew his grandchildren to Boreal to go skiing. He flew another friend to the mountains in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. He also enjoys just taking off for a weekend of out-of-state fishing.

In January, Dalbec was in McAllen Texas and had the good fortune to meet and have lunch with 98-year-old Dick Smith, the oldest licensed pilot in the United States.

To date, Dalbec has taught at least 30 people to fly and helped many others sell their planes. He works with brokers across the country to pick up and deliver planes, often taking fellow Lion and commercial pilot Craig Rose along as his co-pilot.

When he flies angel flights, he is not affiliated with any formal group of pilots, but rather does it on his own, with his own money, on a strictly volunteer basis.

“If I know of someone who needs help getting from their home to a faraway place for medical care, I will personally arrange to fly them there,” he said. “I've flown people all over the United States. I've flown others to the border to get their medication or to simply have access to alternative medical treatments.”

His most recent angel flight took him to Spokane, Wash., where he picked up a cancer patient and two family members to transport them to Mexico for treatment. The patient had been given less than two weeks to live.

“We overnighted in Cloverdale, then flew to San Diego,” he said. “From there, the family took a short van ride to Mexico. This was just one of my many angel flights out of the Cloverdale Airport.”

In addition to being an active member of the Cloverdale Lions Club, Dalbec is also past president of the Cloverdale Pilots Association and has been president of the Cloverdale Roadrunners Car Club for the past three years.

“It makes me feel good to do stuff for the community,” he said.

Through the Lions Club, he is also one of the driving forces behind the soon-to-be installed information sign by the airport's fuel pumps listing phone numbers for lodging, restaurants and local taxi service.

“Probably 600 to 700 airplanes use the Cloverdale Airport each year,” he said, “often stopping for fuel before continuing on to other destinations.”

Next Saturday's Airport Open House and Young Eagles Rally from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. promises a full day of free, fun activities for the whole family.

Representatives from NorCal Skydiving will be on hand to answer questions, Shipway Aviation will have a display of their Quicksilver Ultralight aircraft, and Quality Sport Planes will be there to discuss anything and everything about Zenith Aircraft.

The date also marks the 21st Open House / Fly-In event for Quality Sport Planes and the largest annual gathering of Zenith kit planes in the West. Arrangements for free 20-minute demonstration flights in the Zenith planes can be made by calling 894-4084.

Kids between 8 and 17 also can enjoy free 20-minute plane rides as part of the Young Eagles Rally taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the far end of the field. Rides are limited to the first 50 children signing up. Call Sher Shipway at 584-9682 or email her at SHERyoungeagles@aol.com for more details.

As for Dalbec, he and his fellow Lions Club members will be found in front of his hangar selling freshly barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs.

The Cloverdale Municipal Airport is located at the east end of Chrome Iron Road. Take the Dutcher Creek offramp from Highway 101, turn east to Asti Road, and follow the signs.

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