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The Advocate (09/27/2003), Rock stars soar with local pilot < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

The Advocate (09/27/2003), Rock stars soar with local pilot

The Advocate (Central Ohio), September 27, 2003

Rock stars soar with local pilot
Licking Countian flying high with Fleetwood Mac

Pataskala residents Hillary Zeune, second from left, and Mary Jo and Roger Zeune, far right, stand with the band Fleetwood Mac during the band's 2003 tour. Standing with the Zeunes are, from left, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham.




PATASKALA -- Pataskala resident Roger Zeune has been living a rock 'n' roll fantasy while touring with Fleetwood Mac this past summer. 

When legendary singer Stevie Nicks and the other members of the band eat dinner, Zeune dines with them. When the band members walk onto the stage, he shakes their hands, pats them on the back and wishes them well. And when thousands of fans cheer and sing along to such classics as "The Chain," Zeune stands off to the side of the stage and smiles.

"I took a two-week break recently, and when I came back I was standing behind the stage and Lindsey (Buckingham) came back and gave me a big hug and said, 'We're glad you're back,'" Zeune said.

What a life. Zeune, 52, refers to the members of the band on a first-name basis and even gets paid for touring with its members.

How did the longtime Pataskala resident pull off such a gig? By piloting a charter jet the band is using for its North American tour.

He has worked for Miami Air for more than 10 years. During that time he has flown such notable personalities as then-presidential candidates Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, entertainer Wayne Newton (a Newark native) and the president of Ireland. If that was not enough, Zeune now spends part of each year piloting the Chicago Bulls, a professional basketball team, and the Cincinnati Reds, a professional baseball team, to and from games.

"Being a pilot is kind of fun in the first place, but to do what I do is kind of icing on the cake," said Zeune, back in Pataskala last week for a school board meeting.

Zeune has been flying planes since he was 7 years old. His father, Julian "Nip" Zeune, taught him how to fly small prop planes on the family's Pataskala farm.

"We had a Stenson when I was young, and he'd let me fly down to Albuquerque, N.M.," Zeune remembered. "He'd let me do it by the instruments because I couldn't see out the windows."

The love of flying eventually led Zeune, who walked-on the Ohio State University football team under Woody Hayes, to become a flight instructor after college. He then spent six years piloting for Com Air and six years piloting for Eastern Airlines.

Still, Zeune never dreamed he would be flying rock stars or presidential candidates across the country in a first-class executive jet.

This summer has been particularly rewarding for Zeune, who admitted he had not been a big Fleetwood Mac fan before the tour. In fact, he had never heard of the band.

"I'd heard their songs, but I didn't know who I was listening to," Zeune said.

That all changed when Zeune started dining with the band before each concert and began receiving all-access backstage passes. All told, he's seen 25 concerts this summer and even attended a dinner party at Nicks' home in Phoenix.

Although the members of Fleetwood Mac are well-known rock stars, Zeune said they remain down to earth.

Of Nicks, he said, "She's very nice."

Of Mick Fleetwood, "Mick is kind of quiet, but real friendly."

Nicks even stood up for Zeune when he was moved from his captain seat to the jump position, a non-flying seat in the cockpit.

"She said, 'Captain Zeune either flies or we get on a bus,'" said Zeune, noting he tries to offer a smooth flight. The other pilot apparently fell short of offering a smooth ride, earning Nicks' ire.

Zeune even brought his wife, Mary Jo, and daughter, Hillary, along on part of the tour.

Hillary, 20, enjoyed meeting the band and seeing her dad at work.

"I never knew much about Fleetwood Mac until I flew on the plane," said Hillary, a student at Ohio Wesleyan. "It's amazing how they're such big stars, and they act like family."

The experience also gave her a greater appreciation of the patriarch of her own family.

"He is so amazing," she said. His plane is so beautiful, and he takes so much pride in his work."

For the elder Zeune, flying Fleetwood Mac across America could not be further removed from the days when he took his father's two passenger Piper J3-Cub into the air to look for missing calves.

"It's kind of -- I hesitate to say a job -- because I enjoy what I do," Zeune said. "I tell everybody it beats working for a living."

Thanks to Tommer for posting this to the Ledge.

Date: 2003-09-27         Number of views: 1955

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