By Sean Bowes
A voice crackled across an air-to-air radio frequency, one mile high in Pasco County, “And do you, Daniel Newfang, take Sandy to be your wife? To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish ‘til death do you part?”
“That’s an ‘affirmative.’ I do,” said Newfang.
And with that, pilot Daniel Newfang pulled his Cessna 150 into a barrel roll, spinning the single prop airplane into a celebratory corkscrew because he and his new wife Sandy had just tied the knot, while doing the very thing that brought them together.
“It is just amazing to be able to share your passion with your partner,” says Sandy. “Flying is something that we both love.”
Daniel and Sandy met about four years ago at the annual Cessna 150/152 Foundation’s “Fly In,” a four-day event at the airport (KCWI) in Clinton, Iowa, where pilots from all over the world come together for the largest concentration of Cessna 150s and 152s you’ll find anywhere. Daniel had traveled from his home in New York and Sandy from Tampa. They met and became friends who shared their love for all things aviation. For the next three years, they would catch up at the Fly In, until Daniel was offered a job at the University of South Florida and they started dating.
The newlyweds both come from a background of pilots and are self-confessed plane junkies. Daniel is a third-generation flyer who also has a son who is a pilot. Sandy’s father flew, as well. She says that once they decided to get married, they knew that they wanted a wedding with an aeronautical theme.
“We thought about having the wedding inside one of the (airplane) hangars,” says Sandy. “But then, the idea of getting married while flying came up and we just decided to do it. We still wanted to keep it short and sweet, though.”
From a hairdresser’s recommendation, Sandy got in touch with Mary Adele Cluck, a certified wedding officiant and pastor who runs the Wesley Chapel business called Marry Me Mary. Sandy talked with Cluck about the possibility of the two getting married in the air and they decided they would do it.
“It was great,” says Cluck, the President Elect of the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. “I’ve done some pretty unusual weddings (including one at a rodeo), but this was definitely the most unique.”
To make things official, as well as memorable, Daniel and Sandy gathered three planes together on New Year’s Eve — a Cessna 150 for them to fly, a Cherokee 140 (piloted by their mechanic, Rob Cevasco) for Cluck to ride in in order to read the vows over the radio, and a Cessna 182 which was packed with the couple’s close friends, Tracey and Mark, and Sandy’s two children, Jessica, 19, and Sean, 15, who were the witnesses.
A small group of close family and friends also gathered together outside a hangar at the Tampa North Aero Park (located just off S.R. 54 in Lutz, just outside of Wesley Chapel), to watch the planes take off from the airstrip and climb to 5,280 ft. (one-mile high),where the couple would recite their vows over an air-to-air radio frequency with Cluck.
The three planes, which were named “Wedding Flight” 1, 2 and 3, respectively, soared around the Wesley Chapel area, with only about 100 yards between each of them, for a 45-minute flight before coming back down to the ground with the new married couple.
The Cessna 150 Sandy and Daniel have is equipped with dual controls that allow for two pilots to “share the load” of flying the plane. Daniel handled the take-off of the airplane and Sandy was the one who landed it.
The newly married couple, who recently purchased a home directly across the road from the Aero Park, are excited about beginning a new chapter in their lives, which are largely anchored by the local aviation population. They each have their own airplanes, both of which are Cessnas, which they both fly as much as possible. Sandy says that they would eventually like to build a home on a piece of land that they own at the Aero Park, but for now, they are content living close to the small airport.
And the honeymoon? The couple plans to travel to Australia (commercially) and then pilot a Cessna in order to visit different cities around the country.