GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. – Loved ones of John Lawton will gaze heavenward on his 90th birthday Monday.
Again and again and again.
Otherwise, they might miss his Cessna 172 as he attempts to make 90 flying passages across the U.S.-Canadian border.
“Somehow, I got a wild idea that I needed to do something different for my birthday,” said Lawton, who has been a pilot for 56 years.
Lawton hopes for clear skies when he takes off from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Monday and spends an estimated one to two hours at an altitude of around 3,500 feet, performing a series of tight, nearly aerobatic, figure-eight patterns in his four-seat airplane.
He has asked his non-pilot daughter, Brenda, along for the ride. Lawton’s son, a pilot, will stay on the ground so no one can question who was really at the controls.
“I’ve been working on it and am trying to perfect the flying technique to do it,” Lawton said by phone from his Westfield Township, Ohio, home. He has made practice runs over a roadway to get a feel for the turns and timing.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Buffalo approach control, which oversees the airspace at low altitudes, has signed off on the flight.
Should the weather not cooperate Monday, Lawton will take to the skies on the next possible day.