Ski plane lands on Island

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Coming in for a landing at Klenawicus Airstrip in this 1946 J3 Piper Cub Wednesday morning was a tricky maneuver for flight enthusiast Tim Dahlen, who has been flying out of the Shelter Island airstrip since he was a teenager.

Taking off and landing on a snow-covered airstrip in ski plane at Klenawicus Field on Shelter Island Wednesday is more tricky than landing there when it’s grass, according to Tim Dahlen, 39, of Westhampton. He should know. He’s been flying out of the field since he was a teenager.

There are no brakes on snow, he said, explaining  he has to plan ahead carefully when he’s landing to give the plane room to come to a stop. But planning ahead is something he’s accustomed to doing anyway, having three times lost engine power and having to land without crashing.

“When I’m in the air, I’m always looking for a place to land if I lose engine power,” he said following a flight in his 1946 J3 Piper Cub. It’s one of nine airplanes and one helicopter he owns with a friend, Ed Katzen. He owns some, Mr. Katzen owns some and they own some together, Mr. Dahlen said.

They keep some at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach and others at the Bayport Aerodrome Museum.

Mr. Dahlen’s love of flying developed when he was 17 and got a remote control plane.

“I realized I wanted to be inside,” he said, and by 18, he had his first plane, a Cessna.

“I’ve been hooked ever since,” he said. His oldest son, Chaydon, 16, soloed in the Piper Cub on his last birthday and when he turns 17 in March, he’ll be licensed to fly with a passenger aboard the two-person plane, Mr. Dahlen said.

He bought the Piper Cub from Bill Schwank of Schwank Milk Company in 2007, fully restored it by 2009 and has been flying it ever since.

When he’s not flying, Mr. Dahlen operates Clearview Widow Cleaning and Clearview House Washing.

Just how much has he spent on his hobby?

He rolls his eyes and admits it has been “a small fortune.” Add to that the $7.50 a gallon gasoline cost to fly his planes and it’s an expensive hobby. Still he loves when he sees youths hanging around Klenawicus Field where he can show off his planes and hope to get them hooked the way he is.