Senior photos with an Airplane?!! Um...yes, please!

Since Mayo High School Senior, Cooper Henderson plans to pursue aviation as a career, we discussed the concept of photographing him with an airplane for his senior session. It took some logistical magic but we made it happen! A special thank you to Jim Owens, the President of the EAA Chapter, and the wonderful members who graciously offered us not one, but FOUR airplanes! Because of time constraints, we eventually narrowed it down to two airplanes: A Sonex (The Thunderbird) and a Hatz Classic. The Hatz classic resembles the style of the grand biplanes of the early 1900's- the 1930's.

What to Wear...What to Wear...? Styling is so important!

With the decisions made on the aircraft, it was time to go to work on developing the wardrobe options . Styling would be critical for posing with both airplanes, but especially the biplane. Since the Thunderbird plane was more modern, we opted for a suit and tie with Raybans and since the Hatz Classic was a nod to the biplanes of the early 1900's we went for the "Robert Redford look" in the movie, "The Great Waldo Pepper" Cooper had a pair of khakis, scarf and leather gloves on hand and I found an amazing source on Etsy for a realistic aviator hat. CoteCuir was remarkable to work with! A great wardrobe, coupled with Cooper's posing and the old fashioned "edit" took us directly to that era!

Cooper looking suave in his suit and aviator sun glasses, posing with the Sonex

Cooper styled like the aviators of yesteryear...

The Hatz Classic

Pictured below is the Hatz Classic owned by John and Jeff Hanson, local members of the EAA. Jeff describes the fascinating story about how the Hatz Classic came to be: "Dad and I started the Hatz Classic project in the summer of 1999 and it first flew in June of 2009. The airplane is "plans built", meaning there was no kit - only a set of drawings to start with. My dad had previously built a Rose Parakeet biplane back in the 70's, so I enjoyed the benefit of his previous experience on this project. I built the wings at my house in Kasson, and he built the fuselage at his house in Stewartville. At around the five year mark we were able to first join them all together, and what a day that was! From there we completed the build with all of the engine installation, wiring, plumbing, covering, and painting. In 2013, my son and I flew it to Oshkosh for the first time. We were all incredibly surprised when the aircraft received the grand champion award for plans-built aircraft! Since then we've displayed it at Oshkosh again in 2015 and then for the 50th anniversary of the the Hatz biplane in 2018. The airplane is a joy to fly and we've had a lot of fun with it over the years. There's nothing better than giving somebody their first airplane ride in an open cockpit biplane.

Hatz Classic with aviators posing in front of it.

John and Jeff Hanson, owners and builders of their Award Winning, Hatz Classic, pose with Cooper before flying home.

Behind the Scenes...with the Hatz

Profoto lights up a photo session with the Hatz Classic

Cooper's dad was my lighting assistant and did a fabulous job!

Profoto lights up a photo session with the Hatz Classic

Cooper's mom was the stylist for the session making sure every detail was perfect!

High School Senior Guy Poses with Airplane, the Hatz Classic
High School Senior Guy Poses with Airplane, the Hatz Classic

A Vintage Look...

Stylized Photo Shoot of pre 1930's aviator

At the end of the session, Cooper agreed to pose for a few pictures without the aircraft.

Stylized Photo Shoot of pre 1930's aviator

My plan was to create an portrait to look like the aviators of the 1915-1930's.

The Sonex (Thunderbird)

Man in flight suit with his airplane

Jim Owens, President EAA Chapter 100

Two Aviator enthusiast pose with airplane

Jim Owens, left and Cooper Henderson share a "Pandemic Elbow" instead of a handshake

Jim Owens, President of the local EAA Chapter and owner of the Sonex:

"My interest in aviation is fueled by my father, who earned his Student Pilot certificate in an Aeronca Champ taking civilian training while serving in the Army, stationed in Fairbanks Alaska in 1951. He stopped flight training shortly after his first solo. He built and flew control-line and then Radio Control model airplanes. I began flying Radio Control airplanes at the age of 10. Between the ages of 10 and 18 I built numerous RC airplanes. Some were made from kits and others I designed, built, and flew. I also helped with flight training to a number of Radio Control Model airplane pilots.

Jim's Photos

Family poses with Radio Control Airplane

Radio Control Airplane

Cockpit of a Sonix Aircraft

My dad's favorite hat during our solo anniversary flight

Man poses with Radio Control Airplane

Radio Control Airplane

Behind the Scenes with the Sonex

Woman styles a young man getting picture made

Cooper's Mom makes sure the styling is perfect!

Profoto Lighting equipment used to light picture of a man and airplane

Cooper's Dad, our fabulous lighting assistant, while Cooper poses next to the Sonex

More from Jim Owens...

"My connection to Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) started with yearly trips with my dad to Oshkosh AirVenture beginning in 1982. May 27, 1988 was my first solo- 37 years to the day of my dad’s first solo. My father and I flew many hours together in a Cessna 150. I went to Winona State University 1990-1995 graduating with a degree in Computer Science and a minor in Aviation and 300 hours in my logbook. I am very thankful for the Winona State flight program that required a major other than aviation. I stopped flying full-scale shortly after graduating college. During college I was blessed to have a work-study job where I learned how to do computer software testing. I used that experience to start my computer career and I work for a company called Preventice in Rochester, Minnesota doing software testing on a heart monitoring system.

In 2015 my son and I made our first trip to EAA AirVenture. We waited in line for about 2 ½ hours for a ride in the Bell 47 helicopter (similar to the one shown at the introduction of the TV show MASH). My son was crystal clear on his desire to wait for a ride. This was eye-opening, he had shown little interest in aviation prior to the trip. He was hooked. We both loved the ride and then my son made a life changing statement while leaving the parking lot of our day trip to AirVenture: “Dad, I want to go flying with you as the pilot”. I had little interest in flying a production airplane. In all the years of going to AirVenture with my dad, I had never looked at all of those airplanes and think I would build an airplane some day.

I started building my airplane in 2015. It is a Sonex, a kit designed and produced in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. My goal was to complete the airplane in time for a flight on May 27, 2018. 30 years after my first solo and 67 years after my dad’s first solo. After approximately 1,600 hours of building, the first flight was 10-17-2018. Unfortunately, my dad passed away in 2011, so he did not see any of my airplane project.

The registration number of the airplane is N577CG. US aircraft all start with ‘N’. 577 comes from the 1976 Cessna 150 two passenger airplane I learned to fly when I was 16. The registration number was N66577. CG, is my daughter Cami and son Glason."

Senior Session with the Sonex

Young man in cockpit of Sonex Aircraft
Senior Boy poses with a Sonex Aircraft

After the Session, Cooper Takes Off ...

Post Flight Excitement!

Black and white photo of a man smiling.

Such a great flight, Cooper had a great time!

Session Video

Interested in Aviation? Contact your Local EAA!

Jeff Henson, owner of the Hatz Classic and local EAA member says, "...we are always interested in spreading the word to those out there with an interest in aviation. Chapter 100 was founded in 1958 and is currently made up of about 40 active members. Along with our monthly meetings at the Dodge Center airport, we host community events including our annual Father's Day fly-in breakfast and spring and fall "Young Eagles" rallies when our members volunteer their time and aircraft to provide free education and aircraft rides to kids ages 8-17 years old. More information and event details as well as meeting schedules can be found on our website: EAA