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Pilot hopes to pass on his love of the skies


Retired men seem to find each other. Whether at a coffee shop counter or from a park bench, the good-old-days story swapping happens daily in towns across the globe.

One such group, dubbed "the airport bums," hangs out every morning around the Bald Eagle Aviation terminal at Columbia Airport. Some members still fly, others just share memories of their days in the pilot's seat.

An occasional visitor is Alan Wallace, an electrician and recreational pilot. He will sit and have a cup of coffee with the "bums." He tells a story now and then, but would much rather hear the stories of near-crashes and treacherous landings from his senior friends.

"I have learned a tremendous amount sitting and listening to the older pilots," he said.

These veteran aviators may consider Wallace, at age 48, a rookie.

He has only been a pilot for about 13 years and has clocked 700 hours of flying time. But in that time, Wallace has sat on the county airport committee, airport land use committee and the Tuolumne County Aeronautical Association. He is also the Airport Support Network representative for the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association, heads the annual Father's Day Fly-in, began a program for children interested in flying and helped his son, Shane, pursue an aviation degree.

Wallace grew up in Turlock and joined the Army right out of high school. After leaving the military, Wallace went to California State University, Chico, for a semester. But he said he decided college wasn't for him and in 1973, became an apprentice at an electrician's business in Turlock.

In 1977, he got his own contractor's license and soon went into business for himself.

He now has two electrical contracting businesses — one in Turlock and another based in Twain Harte.

Wallace, his wife, Cindy, son, Shane, 20, and daughter, Lindsey, a Summerville High School senior, moved to the county from Turlock in 1995. Cindy is a semi-retired teacher who substitute teaches several days a week.

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