Dawn Patrol to open airshow with replica World War I planes

Friday, May 25, 2012 | 7:07 p.m. CDT; updated 9:03 a.m. CDT, Saturday, May 26, 2012
The 24th Annual Salute to Veterans Airshow will begin Saturday with aerobatics and displays from the Dawn Patrol, a Kansas City group that makes and flies their own World War I replica planes. The squadron has been involved with the Veterans Airshow for almost 20 years.

COLUMBIA — Sharon Starks, 67, rolled the body of the airplane off the trailer behind the minivan, pulled out the wings and tail and began reassembling the 350-pound World War I replica with a conglomeration of bolts, cables and metal arms called struts.

After about 30 minutes of work, the Morane Saulnier Model L Parasol was ready to fly. 

Starks is the only woman pilot in the The Dawn Patrol of Kansas City, a group of pilots who come together to enjoy hand-built replica planes and fly them at air shows.

"Flying an airplane itself is really exciting. Flying an airplane with an open cockpit ... it's really the cat's meow," Starks said. 

The squadron has been the opening act for the annual Salute to Veterans Airshow almost every year for 20 years, Starks said. This year, The Dawn Patrol is scheduled to take to the air from 9:15 to 9:45 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Dawn Patrol will pull two planes in the parade downtown on Monday morning.

Wind, however, could interfere with those plans. If winds reach more than 18 knots, or about 22 miles an hour, these planes cannot by handled safely in the air, she said.

"You have to respect the airplane," Starks said, adding that a pilot can't try to overdo the plane's capabilities or show off. 

Starks has been flying since 1998. Before that, she helped her husband, Dick, who has been flying World War I replicas since 1986. Together they have built five replicas from scratch and two reconstructions.

She even helped build her own plane. Stark and her husband, along with several other squadron members, fly out of Liberty Landing Airport in western Missouri. They gather three to four nights a week to fly together. 

"We love to fly and feel the wind in our face and the bugs in our teeth," Starks said.

Will you be at the air show this weekend? We’d love to publish your photos from the event. Send them to, and include information about what’s happening in the photo and who took it.

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