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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Clayton Hollenback

Friday's Fabulous Flyer:  

Clayton Hollenback:

“Research Scientist in Iowa, Husband, Father, culinary expert, webmaster, and PR guru for Medicine on the Move, Ghana... a man with many talents, who flies and builds planes when he's not planting seeds in his garden, or tending his chickens....”

Clay grew up in North Central Indiana, went to Purdue University, where he met Tracey. He graduated in 1988 with a degree in genetics, and he and Tracey married in 1990. They moved to Iowa in late December 1992 so Tracey could go to Palmer college of Chiropractic, and they’ve been there since. They decided they had too much free time so they had two boys—Garrett 7 and Reid 3 ½. 


Living in Wilton Iowa in a 112-year-old farmhouse on 10 acres, surrounded by maize fields, with about 20 chickens and an active vegetable plot, keeps Clay busy, and yet he finds time to work, build planes, and support Medicine on the move. 


Karlene: Clay, can you tell us about your day job?

Clay:I work in the department of internal medicine, division of infectious diseases at the University of Iowa with the inflammation program. I work with helicobacter pylori and francisella tularensis. My work involves determining the mechanism of infection and how these bacteria prevent the killing oxidative burst after phagocytosis by neutrophils…. Or you can just say I’m a Bionerd.. easier to say…"


Karlene: So your day job is every little boy’s dream— you play with bugs, and you’re also a pilot. When did you first start flying?

Clay:  My first logged flight was 9-24-02, I received my certificate with 42 hours logged on 2-7-03 at 5:37 PM… in a Cessna 150— N8686G. Not that it was a big deal or anything…
My qualifying cross-country solo… I left Iowa City (IOW), headed north for a Touch and go at Cedar Rapid, continued on to Waterloo (ALO) for another T-n-G, then to Dubuque (DBQ) T-n-G, south to Mount joy (DVN) for fuel and a carbonated non-alcoholic beverage and then back home to IOW… completely uneventful… Other than almost missing Dubuque.

Karlene: I’m glad you didn’t missed Dubuque. You’ve come a long way from the Cessna. What is the most memorable aircraft you have flown?

Clay: A homebuilt Experimental Starduster biplane.

Karlene: Have you ever had any interesting moments while learning to fly?

Clay: One particular afternoon my instructor decided it was time to do some cross wind landings. Winds were about 20 degrees of center at about 20-knots gusting to 25. We departed IOW and stayed in the pattern for a t-n-g. I had a very difficult time holding the center line so we went around. After 3 more attempts my instructors gave it a try to show me how it was done. After he went around twice he decided it was time to leave the pattern a do some work in the practice area. The winds had increases to the point that I couldn’t hold my lines on any maneuver. Working at about 700 feet AGL it had become very gusty. It was time to head home. I rolled out of left handed a maneuver to head east (right). Almost as soon as my wings were parallel with the ground a gust of wind hit us lifting the left wing and nearly flipping the aircraft over.

I can remember looking over at my instructor and seeing nothing but the ground beyond him. The wings had passed vertical and we were losing altitude FAST. My instructor and I had slammed the rudder and ailerons full left. They had absolutely no affect for almost 2 very tense seconds. Finally righted at about 250 feet AGL we made a beeline for the active. Fortunately for us the winds had come around and we straight down the runway. Unfortunately the winds had increased to 35 knots gusting to 50. It was my first full throttle, no flaps landing. Our ground roll was only about 200 feet about 600 feet shorter than normal. We parked the plane and exited the aircraft silently, a bit shaky and very pale. We later discovered that a front had moved through almost 6 hours ahead of the forecasted, announcing its arrival with it a 70 knot gust.
 Clay's first ride in a CH750

Karlene: I hear you are building a plane, can you tell us what it is and how you selected it?

Clay: I’m building a Zenith Ch750 an all-metal STOL aircraft from the Zenith AircraftCompany.  I chose it because I want to be able to actually complete the plane in a reasonable amount of time and then land in my own yard. The company has an excellent reputation - and the parts are beautifully made.  


Karlene: How far along are you on completion?

Clay: The Horizontal stabilizer, elevator and rudder are complete. I’m about 70% done with the rear fuselage. Over all about 30-35% DONE.


Karlene: Have you had any help with it, or are you building this on your own?

Clay: I had the privilege to have Jonathan Porter and Patricia Mawuli  from Medicine on the Move assist with me with the rear fuselage. It was an amazing display of confidence and ability. When Patricia gets going it’s best to just stay out of her way. Or you might get “the look”….She is a machine in the shop, serious focused and competent... just amazing.


Karlene: I’m looking forward to meeting Patricia one day. How did you hear about her?

Clay: I found out about Patricia through Medicine on the Move. I first ran into Jonathan while surfing through the Zenith builders’ forum. He had posted that “one of the staff went to pick some parts and got a surprise...She took hold of a lovely Royal Python”. How could I not look him up to get more of the story? I looked his MoM website over and I thought I might be able to help … My plan was to build him a basic, functional website that he could maintain and then move on… things change… 2 years later I run the MoM website and a lot more! 

Karlene: So, you volunteered your spare time to be the MOM webmaster?

Clay: Yes, it took a while for them to understand that I just wanted to help, but I was happy when they gave me the keys to the website and I took it on. It takes up a lot of my spare time, but I really enjoy it - especially getting to read the blog posts before they are posted to the special blogspot page.

Karlene: That’s a huge undertaking. Why do you do it?

Clay: I enjoy helping others. I know I’m making a difference and I’m trying to be an example to my two young sons. There is more to this world than our little corner of it.  


Karlene: You are setting an excellent example. I heard that MoM came to OshkoshAirVenture  last year, and you were instrumental in making that happen.

Clay: I Talked about OSH every time Jonathan and I spoke. I told Jonathan it was THE place to be if you had even a passing interest in aviation and a fantastic place to launch an awareness campaign for MoM. He told me before he and Patricia arrived in 2011 that this was going to be their “once in a life time visit to OSH”…… Driving out of the parking lot the last day he said “we’ll be back next year, I don’t know how we’ll do it but we’ll be back”… LOL.  Patricia gave a great AOPA interview and the organization got a lot ofother coverage.

Karlene: Will MoM come to Osh this year?

Clay: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I will be there too!

Karlene: I’m hoping to be there too. Where will they be? 

Clay: We’ll have a home base in the Zenith booth again but will be all over. We’re camping this year, stop in for some West African culinary flavors - my favorite so far is called 'Omo Tuo'  or rice balls in peanut soup.

You had better be there – you have a great book... Flight For Control... and thank you for giving MoM a special mention – everyone else has to read the book to find out more! I hope to get signed copy of your fantastic book... ;-)

Karlene: Of course. Do you think you would like to visit Ghana and MoM? Maybe we could go at the same time.

Clay: Absolutely, I’m planning to visit as a volunteer, for Fly me day 2013. If all goes well I’ll spend 2 or 3 weeks staying at the special accommodation/training Centre/mini-clinic that is currently nearing completion.

Karlene: When you go down there, what would you hope to contribute?

Clay: I’ll contribute in any way I can. I’d like to go over some survival skills with the girls of the AvTech Academy, a special training school set up by Patricia and the team at Kpong Airfield in Ghana. It’s something ALL pilots need to know. 


Karlene: That’s great. Yes, all pilots need to know this for sure and that would be a fantastic contribution.

Clay: I just want to see the people I’m helping, and to get my hands dirty working on a few projects - and eat lots of peanut soup!

Karlene: Thank you for sharing your story, is there anything you would like to add, perhaps some sites that readers could visit to learn more about MoM?

Clay: Not only do I look after the MoM website, but now also the Social-Entrepreneurship behind MoM -WAASPS website, the MoM blog, FAM blog (the weekly column of Jonathan under his Pen Name Captain Yaw), MoM Face Book page, MoM You Tube channel and Pinterest page. I’ve taken on the roll of Webmaster, Public relations rep for MoM and the MoM social media director. And the roll I’m most proud of is that I get to pester the folks in the field for their blogs and get to read them first - my day is not complete without sending a 'Where is today's blog?' message at least a few times! 


Clay, thank you so much for all you do for Medicine on the Move. You’re an incredible man sharing so many gifts with the world, and your rooster too, I’m looking forward to meeting you at OSH.

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene


  1. Every boys' dream, bugs and flying, LOL! I love that. He is an incredible man indeed, making a positive difference. Thank you Clayton for all you do.

    1. Thank you for your comment Heather. Yes... he is an incredible man making a difference. It warms my heart to know that there are such giving people out there.

  2. Congratulations to a wonderful interview! Thank you so much for all you do for MoM!

    1. Thank you Hella! Clay does so much. I'm amazed at all he does in his home life, with work, building his planes... where does he find the time? I suspect he makes it in his heart.

  3. Amazing energy and doing so many great things! MoM is so important, I'm really impressed Clay is so active with them.

    1. Linda, Thank you so much for stopping by, all the way from Prague to comment. I too am impressed with him.

      Keep doing what you're doing Clay... you are making a difference.


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