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EAAer Describes Adventure 'Chasing Lewis And Clark'

December 1, 2005 - Photographer, pilot, and explorer Ron Lowery visited the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Tuesday evening to share his story about retracing the great Lewis and Clark expeditions of two centuries ago. Lowery, with writer and fellow pilot Mary Walker, cast shadows on the explorers’ watery route in his homebuilt AirCam, Cloud Chaser. He also signed copies of the book, Chasing Lewis & Clark Across America, which chronicles the journey.

The idea to retrace the steps of America’s most famous explorers first came to Lowery around 2001 when he began doing some research on their expedition.

“The story always fascinated me as the greatest American adventure,” said Lowery, EAA 556164. “In my research, however, I didn’t see any pictorial representations of the trail that satisfied me visually.”

The lightweight airplane provided the perfect platform. Originally designed for National Geographic magazine’s photo expeditions in Africa, its twin 100-hp engines and large wing give the Air Cam tremendous power and useful load capability.

Lowery and his son built the aircraft over three years as a platform with unlimited sight lines for his photography. In the open cockpit, the pilot sits far forward of the landing gear, giving Lowery the freedom to photograph without the obstruction of wings or struts.

When the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition was on the horizon, Lowery and his wife, Sue, began planning their own adventure to commemorate the historic journey. Using a program called Keyhole, Lowery could download satellite images and virtually travel the Missouri River from his office chair just as if he were flying at 8,000 ft. AGL. He also consulted topographical and political maps to give him a feel for the terrain, and aviation charts provided previews of the different airspaces he would encounter.

From June to September 2003, Lowery flew Cloud Chaser over the same rivers Lewis and Clark had paddled down 200 years earlier, while Sue pulled a fifth-wheel RV, meeting him at predetermined waypoints along the route. Walker, a writer with a broad knowledge of the history of Lewis and Clark, spent mornings flying with Ron as he took advantage of early morning lighting to get the best shots.

After the 14,000-mile round-trip, the Lowerys started their own publishing company, Windsock Media, and designed the book themselves.

“His story is a true testament to what a homebuilt airplane can do,” said Nicole Raudabaugh, EAA visitor services manager. “By tying in other hobbies such as photography and history, he created an entire adventure in the air.”

A recording of Lowery’s presentation will soon be available online at www.airventuremuseum.org/virtual/interactive/webcast_archive.asp.

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