Donahue operating aerial photography business

Perhaps you looked up to the sky recently and observed a small airplane buzzing around.

That was Denny Donahue, a native of the Onaga area, flying his 1976 Cessna 177-RG.

Donahue, a retired Navy veteran who flew 263 combat missions in Viet Nam during 1966-1968, has started a new aerial photography business in northeast Kansas with his photo plane, which he calls “Old Incorrigible.”

With Donahue Aerial, LLC, no project is too big or too small and the Donahues say they’ll approach each project professionally and as a new adventure. In recent weeks, Donahue provided The Holton Recorder with an aerial view of the new and improved Community Hospital of Onaga.

Donahue’s motivation to start a new aerial photography business was simple. “I just didn’t want to get old!” he said. “Most of my friends were either dying or adjusting their pastimes and interests to sedentary activities and then turning old.”

Donahue, 73, previously owned and operated an aerial photography business in Denver, Colo., flying primarily in the aerial mapping business. 

“I started flying 55 years ago, and then flew in the Navy as a Naval Flight Officer in the right seat of the largest twin engine jet to ever operate off of a carrier, the Navy’s 1950s era EA-3B,” Donahue said. “I was stationed in Japan in an aerial reconnaissance squadron. We flew simulated Russian and Chinese defense penetration missions during the time we were not deployed to Viet Nam.

“We lost one of our squadron aircraft to the North Koreans. These top secret flights were flown without any fighter escort and I always considered them more dangerous than the missions we flew in the Gulf of Tonkin (off the Viet Nam coast) where we made run-ins to locate surface to air missile locations so our other aircraft could avoid them,” he said. 

“We had the electronics to provide warnings to other aircraft when a missile was fired. It was very rewarding to come back aboard and have another pilot say that our warning had save his @!@ and kept his future relevant,” Donahue said.

Donahue said he has made more than 200 take off/landings from a carrier and figures he has logged more than 3,500 military flight hours and about 4,000 private/civilian flight hours.

In 1996, Donahue sold his mapping plane and camera in Denver and purchased a 50-ft. sailboat, which, in 1999, he and two friends   sailed across the Atlantic Ocean.   From Puerto Rico to Falmouth, England, took 38 days with over night stops in Bermuda and the Azores.  

And if that wasn’t adventurous enough, he sold the sailboat and then purchased a 40-ft. canal boat and made plans to operate a tourist boat business up and down the rivers and canals of Europe from a base in Holland. He said he had become acquainted with canal boats while he was at Washburn University and studied in Holland as an exchange student.  

Returning to Kansas to be near his elderly parents, Donahue said he decided that rather than  “submit to the T.V. remote control” he passed an FAA commercial flight physical exam and found an FAA flight instructor who agreed to help him hone his skills so that he can safely fly photography missions at the altitudes permitted by FAA regulations.

Donahue is an instrument-rated commercial pilot with multi-engine and sea-plane ratings. He has performed aerial photography over rain forests in Honduras, mapped the entire Mexico City basin, photogrammetrically established the size of a dinosaur which walked down in a canyon south of La Junta, Colo., 120 million years ago, and even mapped bumps in the runways of Dallas Fort-Worth and Chicago O’Hare airports. His photographs have been featured on the covers of magazines. 

Donahue feels that his extensive background in flying and aerial photography should give potential customers confidence in his new aerial photography business.

Donahue’s wife, Mary, flies with Denny and shoots the aerial photos from a specially modified bay on the passenger side of the Cessna. They have grown daughters and grandchildren living in Dallas and Denver. The Donahues live in the Topeka area and fly out of Forbes Airfield.

“Sometimes you can only spot problems and perfection from above,” Denny says. “And, lots of people are seeking good aerial photos of their farms or other property. We can provide excellent results with reasonable rates.”

For more information about Donahue Aerial, LLC, contact Denny at 785-547-5213 or visit

The Holton Recorder

109 W. Fourth St.
Holton, KS 66436
Phone: 785-364-3141

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