By NIKKI YOUNK
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain native Urban Rahoi took his first solo flight at age 15. Seventy-nine years later, at the age of 94, the World War II veteran is still flying high.
Phyllis Ewig Photos
Iron Mountain native Urban Rahoi, left, recently got a chance to fly a P-51 Mustang with copilot John Posson. Rahoi is 94 years old and a World War II veteran.
This 1947 photo shows Iron Mountain native Urban Rahoi with his plane on Lake Antoine. Rahoi has been flying planes since he was 15 years old.
Rahoi, who now resides in Fairbanks, Alaska, recently got a chance to fulfill one of his lifelong dreams - flying a P-51 Mustang.
Although Rahoi regularly flew B-17 bombers during his service in World War II, he never had a chance to fly the Mustang.
"I always wanted to fly one," said Rahoi. "Then I saw some program on TV where they were giving flights in Florida."
Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, Fla. offers orientation flights in the P-51 Mustang and the T-6 Texan to people with and without flight experience.
Rahoi noted that Stallion 51 staff were initially critical of his flying abilities.
"They said, 'Are you sure you can get in?'" he said. "After we landed, my copilot told me, 'You taught me one hell of a lesson.'"
Rahoi certainly has experience on his side. Over the course of 79 years, he has logged more than 24,000 hours of flight time.
It all began in 1934 in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area. After a mere two hours of instruction from local resident Mario Fontana, Rahoi took his first solo flight. He was only 15.
"I just always wanted to fly," Rahoi explained. "He (Fontana) told me I was a natural."
Rahoi admitted that it was not completely legal for him to fly alone at such a young age, but regulations back then were fairly lax.
In 1942, Rahoi joined the Army Air Corps. He started out as a flight instructor, then moved on to flying B-17 bombers out of Italy. Eventually, he became a check pilot.
After the war, Rahoi obtained his commercial license and moved from the Iron Mountain area to Fairbanks.
He worked there as a "bush pilot," flying passengers and supplies to remote areas with rough terrain.
Rahoi stills flies regularly, and he currently has plans to fly some other World War II planes - the B-17 and the B-25.
"I just had my physical and I'm good to go," he added.
According to Rahoi, his late wife Vienna is the reason he has stayed so active for so long. Vienna passed away in 2010.
"I give her credit," said Rahoi. "We had a nice, peaceful life."
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.