For the Love of Airplanes

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MACON - Can a childhood passion propel you into a future occupation? Jim Cooper decided he would take his love of model airplanes to the next step by turning his favorite hobby into a profitable business.


"When I was a kid, I would build them up, when I accumulated more of them... they had to go. They ended up becoming a BB gun target. So, I'd take them out and shoot them and try to pick off the tail and the cockpit and the propellor." he said.

Cooper swears he hasn't flown over the line from passion into obsession, but his wife might disagree.

"She caught me talkin' in my sleep the other day... and it had something to do with airplanes." he said.

What started at the age of seven has become almost a second source of income. He said he'll put $25 into buying supplies and then turn around and sell his work on Ebay for $200. With the precision of a sugrgeon and the patience of a saint, it's aviation art in it's finest miniature form.

"It takes a certain amount of craftmanship to go in and paint a little tiny pilot," Cooper said. "These things can get frustrating because they don't fit right and you throw them against the wall and they shatter if you get too frustrated with them."

When he was younger, Jim wanted to glimpse the world from the pilot's seat. Now, the story he can tell with his hands is about the renovation of the only flying Seafire 15.

"Since there are only 5 of these anywhere in the world, having it as a flying example is unique in itself." Cooper said.

After nearly four years of renovations and 40 years on the ground, the seafire is ready to see the skies again. For Cooper, it's terrifying to watch it leave the nest.

"He's a historian, an artist and a mechanic kind of all together," said Wes Stricker, the Seafire's owner. "And he's taken it on and single-handedly brought this airplane together and to a first flight where groups.. museums' efforts over a 40 year period have been unsuccessful."