By ANNALISE FRANK
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PERRY, Mo. -- When Dillon Barron ripped out the interior of a deteriorated Cessna 170 plane and found samples of its original 1954 paint and fabric, his project became much more than just fixing up an old aircraft.
Dillon's father, Michael Barron, is the owner of Barron Aviation in Perry. He bought the plane as a learning opportunity for his son, a 2012 graduate of Mark Twain High School in Center. Dillon, 17, promised to do all the work if Michael financed the operation.
His work has paid off. Dillon won a silver "Lindy" award at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual AirVenture Oshkosh 2012 aircraft competition in Oshkosh, Wis. The international event celebrates the "past, present and future" of aviation with air shows, workshops and awards, according to AirVenture.org.
Michael bought the plane in 2009, and Dillon started his first journey into aircraft restoration late that year, not knowing it would lead him to a prestigious international award. He started tinkering with the Cessna's old parts, doing a little at a time, until he called Michael one day while working on the interior.
"(Dillon) was all excited because when he was taking the interior out, he found samples of the original (parts)," Michael said. "That was the only thing missing. So we decided to put it back, completely original, at that point."
"Completely original" means that instead of fixing the plane and painting it a color of Dillon's choosing, Dillon and Michael searched meticulously for colors and interior pieces that would perfectly match the original paint and tufts of fabric Dillon found under layers of resurfacing.
"I thought it was just gonna be a short project, throw some paint on it," Dillon said. "But as I got to tearing it apart, (I realized) it was more of a restoration-type deal."
His father and grandfather, John Barron, helped during the process, but Dillon did most of the labor and research needed to turn his hunk of metal into an award-winning restored plane. He has even flown the plane since its completion.
After approximately 1,500 hours of labor, Dillon finished it on July 23. The last touches of the plane were completed in time for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
Dillon has been to the world aircraft competition 14 times, and he finally entered the show himself this year.
"I've been around the competition quite a bit, so that's why I wanted to go up there and see what I could do," Dillon said.
The event showcasing between 10,000 and 15,000 aircrafts. Dillon never expected to get an award, let alone the silver statue for his category, classic planes (1946 to 1955).
The categories are classic, antique (up to 1945) and contemporary (after 1955). The 16 bronze "Lindy" (named after Charles Lindbergh) statues are given for several different categories, and three silver and gold "Lindys" are given -- one for each of the three classifications.
Dillon learned about his award when someone left a note on his plane while it was out on public display. He assumed he'd won a bronze, but after presenters announced all of those winners and Dillon wasn't announced, he thought there'd been a mistake.
"Then they called my ... ID number of my airplane (for silver)," he said. "I was thrilled."
Michael said watching his son win silver and become the "reserve grand champion" for his long, arduous labor was "incredible." Equally impressive, however, was seeing his son converse with people from around the world as he showed off his Cessna 170 during the event.
"I saw him grow up more in five days than in the past two years," Michael said.