Side by Side

By Abigail Oleniczak

Talk about a father-sons adventure!

Father Mike Rath, of Spearfish, South Dakota, flew his Waco Classic biplane into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh on Saturday, alongside with his two sons flying a Cessna 140, piloted by 17-year-old Josh.

“Just flying into Oshkosh is so cool!” said Josh, who is studying mechanical engineering as a sophomore at South Dakota School of Mines.

Josh learned how to fly in a tailwheel aircraft and finds the mechanical aspect most exciting. Luke, 14, who is a freshman in high school, plans to earn his private pilot certificate as soon as he turns 16. In South Dakota, you can earn your driver’s license at 14, which for Josh and Luke means that’s when they can start flying.

 Flying has been a passion of the two brothers from a young age. Josh now craves a challenge and has begun to recently seek them as he is starting to fly a biplane. He enjoys pushing himself to constant perfection, he said.

Mike Rath snapped this moment of flying beside his teenage sons en route to Oshkosh.

Mike has been a major influence in his sons’ lives due to his background flying multiple full-sized and remote-controlled airplanes. “[Dad] just loves it, and it rubs off on us so fast,” said Josh.

Although the flight would be seven hours in total, they decided to break the journey into two days. On Friday, the three Raths flew to their grandparents’ house to spend the night in northern South Dakota. At 4 a.m. Saturday, they took off and quickly were faced with a challenge. At 4,000 feet above sea level in South Dakota, the air density is significantly thinner, which creates a difficult environment to take off.

 Josh said, “With another person aboard and a full cockpit, the plane was heavy.” But they safely overcame it, and the last leg to Oshkosh was underway.

Josh said he plans to make aviation a part of his life and hopes to earn an internship at Garmin and eventually a master’s in aeronautical science. Luke is focused on continuing to practice his flying skills, earn his pilot’s certificate, and ultimately dreams to fly as a captain for FedEx.

The brothers also enjoy flying to their family’s ranch in Montana. Luke said, “What’s cool about going there is the amount of space there is for us to land the airplane.”

Josh and Luke are most excited to see Scrappy, the competition-winning STOL aircraft, the new RV-15, and all the air shows during the week.

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