Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vinton County Pilot Takes Flight with Air Tours

by Veronica Norton

Harry Sowers knows how to entertain. Whether guiding tourists up and over the majestic Hocking Hills by plane or telling stories of Ohio folklore, he keeps people interested. The Hocking Hills Scenic Air Tours guide, and veteran pilot of over 40 years, loves to share his passion for flight with people. Though many have explored the forested area of the Hocking Hills on foot or two wheels, few have seen the expansive vistas and lakes from the sky.

Enter Harry Sowers, who offers interesting and unique knowledge of the area through air tours. Up in the sky he’ll talk about everything, from folklore to geological formations, and, if you’re lucky, maybe he’ll even throw in a John Wayne impression. This is all while he gracefully guides visitors up into the air with the Cessna SkyHawk, the plane Harry purchased from Ohio University 12 years ago.

Harry became fascinated with flying after his first skyward adventure when he was just six years old. Since then, he’s devoted much of his life to his love of flying and has passed on that passion to others as a flight instructor for the past 36 years. Harry now works out of the Vinton County Airport, where he’s seen visitors from as far as Africa, India and Europe. The airport is completely run by volunteers, making Harry in charge of flying, maintenance and even comfort—he uses a hair dryer to warm his cockpit before visitors climb aboard.

Though he’s been to 27 countries and all 50 states, Harry loves touring this area because, being born and raised here, “there’s nothing like home,” he says. He also says the Hocking Hills are “really turning into a tourist attraction with all of the hills and caves…even the mini Grand Canyon of Old Man’s Cave.”

The pilot likes to tour in the summer because it is best for weather, but says the “pretzel” landscape, created by the folding of the hills and ridges, makes for a magical winter’s view. The fall and spring also offer breathtaking views of the changing leaves and dogwoods respectively.

Harry’s passion for people and planes is obvious and he truly loves to share his joy with others. “I love talking [and] I love flying,” he says. Looks like Harry Sowers has found his perfect job.

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