On the wings of adventure: Oregon resident
touches down in Hardin County on way to Florida

April, 14, 2009

Oregon resident Arty Trost, 65, checks over the
"Wandering Wench", a 1984 Maxair Drifter, before
taking off from the Hawthorne Field Airport located
on Texas 327 in Kountze Tuesday afternoon.
Lluvia Rueda/The Enterprise

The asphalt surface of the sleepy little Kountze airport trembled as plane engines whirred to life on the bright, wind-swept Tuesday afternoon.

Oregon native Arty Trost smiled at the sound, shielding her eyes from the sun as she gassed up her 320-pound baby - a 1984 Maxair Drifter named the "Wandering Wench," a registered Experimental Light Sport aircraft.

"It's a great day to fly. Beautiful. Great sun like this makes long trips go by faster," said Trost.

After traveling almost 2,500 of the 7,200 miles in the Oregon-to-Florida-and-back trip, the 65-year-old pilot isn't turning down any help she gets along the way.

Trost said this journey began with the desire to make long-distance flights over 15 years ago, when she dived into the professional world of flying.

"I had been introduced to flying in November 1988 when a friend gave me a demonstration flight, and I loved it. I soloed in 1989 and was crazy passionate about it ever since," said Trost, gazing at the sky from the Hawthorne Field parking lot.

Trost, a motivational speaker, said she came up with the idea of doing a long-range Drifter flight to the spring Sun-N-Fun convention in Florida back in 1999.

"I knew it sounded crazy, but I saved up my pennies and here I am in Kountze, Texas, having traveled 1,400 miles by myself for the first time," she said, referring to the times she didn't have others along.

This is not the first time she has made a long-distance run, though.

Since 2000, Trost has racked up a sizable amount of air miles by making multi-week, multi-state flights each year. She has flown over many states including California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Idaho and overseas in Puerto Rico, Italy and Israel.

On this excursion, Trost has been accompanied every now and then by Oregon resident and friend Randy Simpson, 52, as well as other flight enthusiasts from across the U.S.

"One of the reasons that I was able to make it this far is because I have kept constant updates about my travels on my blog and Web site. People have responded like nothing else; they want me to stay at their homes and give me a hand. It's been really great," said Trost.

After touching down in Hardin County Monday, Trost and Simpson met with and were advised by Drifter enthusiast and Web site follower Tom Harlan, who helped direct them to the best routes out of the region.

Harlan, a Beaumont resident, said he would accompany the pair into the Mississippi area.

"I think this was a great idea. I love flying and I feel that this is a good way to get people to notice the flying community," said Harlan.

The experimental aircraft pilots said they did not follow a specific flight pattern because they fly below the designated air space area.

"Technically I could fly at that level, since I am registered, but I feel that it is a risk because our Drifters are much slower and less sturdy as compared to the commercial flights. So we just stay out of it," said Trost.

Drifters typically can go from 100 feet to 9,500 feet above mean sea level and can hold about 16 gallons of automobile or aircraft gas.

Trost's plane can go anywhere from 25 to 60 miles per hour and is powered by an engine on a par with that of a snowmobile.

When the safety of her lightweight craft comes into question, she acknowledges the dangers involved.

"This was technically not built for long-distance flights. It is basically an irrigation pipe with wings and a seat. But I am a risk-taker and it has behaved pretty well so far," said Trost.

When she is not flying and doing maintenance on her aircraft, Trost goes online to chronicle her adventures and encourages other women - and men - to pursue their "wildest dreams."

"The goal of this trip is to be an example for others, as well as myself. I want other people to realize that they can achieve what they want in life," said Trost, a few minutes before the group's takeoff to Nauga, La., near St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish.

Trost said she plans to fly through Texas again in the near future.