Jim Klick of Crest Hill recently gave the Lewis University Airport a handful of what Klick calls “good karma” for the second time in 20 years.
On May 17, Klick added some soil from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to the base of the new control tower at the airport before the concrete was poured. The control tower is currently under construction, according to Klick, 80, is the vice chairman of the Joliet Regional Port District, which owns Lewis University Airport.
He also shared some of his Kitty Hawk soil at the intersection of the old and new runway at the airport in 2004.
That’s because Klick, who’s flown planes since 1960, attended the centennial of the Wright Brothers first flight in 2003. He collected dirt from the takeoffs and landings of all four flights that first day and placed it in 35 millimeter film cannisters, which are displayed in his den, Klick said.
Klick has loved airplanes since he was old enough to watch them flying in the sky. As a boy, he read plenty of chapter books about the exploits of World War II pilots and aviators, Klick said in 2020 Herald-News story.
“One of the greatest things in my life that I ever found was a library card,” Klick said in the 2020 story. “Because then I could read books for free.”
At 11, Klick would ride a bus for two hours to Midway Airport, where he paid a dime to stand in the observation deck and watch planes take off and land, according to a 2011 Herald-News story.
“Then I’d take the bus back home,” Klick said in the 2011 story, “and my mother would want to know where I was all day.”
Four years later, Klick was pumping gas and sweeping at the Chicago-Hammond Airport (now the Lansing Municipal Airport) in exchange for watching the planes. One day, a instructors said to him, “I’ve got some time to kill. Do you want to go for a ride?”
So Klick did – aboard a Piper Cub.
Klick enlisted in the U.S. Air Force following high school where he fixed radios on airplanes and joined a flying club.
“I did not have a college degree, so I could not get into pilot training,” Klick said. “But I was able to service airplanes and fly in a lot of millitary planes when I had the opportunity.”
Klick had his first flying lesson at age 19 while stationed at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas. He earned his pilot’s license in 1960.
In 2011 Klick received the “Wright Brothers Master Pilot” award for flying 50 years without an incident or violation.
In that 2011 Herald-News story, Klick shared the three rules he always follows in regards to flying: “When in doubt, don’t; never trust the weather forecast; and never do anything dumb. The most commonly heard last words are, ‘Here, hold onto my beer and watch this.’”
Through the years, Klick has also taught flying, competed and judged competitions. He currently owns – and flies – a World War II military observation plane.
Klick also builds model airplanes, a hobby he’s enjoyed most of his life, having built more than 100, including “a couple of dozen” during the pandemic year. In a 2020 Herald-News story, he recalled how he hung those models from his bedroom by a fishing line.
“My mother periodically would make me get a stepladder out of the garage and dust them,” Klick said in the 2020 story.
But Klick, who is currently working on two models, isn’t planning on buying any new kits. He’s hoping to still build the “80 or 90” that are still boxes “so my wife won’t have to sell them at a garage sale.”