PENDLETON - With the warmer weather and the clearing skies lately in Eastern Oregon, Jim Whitney has had an itch to go flying.

Whitney, a Pendleton real estate broker, has been in the business 33 years and has been flying almost since the beginning. A Umatilla County native, he grew up in Athena and graduated from Pendleton High School and Southern Oregon University.

"Dad had a plane," Whitney remembered. "I always enjoyed flying with him. I could see where I could use the plane in the real estate business, so two years into the business I had my license."

Today he's broker of record at two Pendleton real estate firms, The Whitney Land Co. and Coldwell Banker Whitney and Associates, and he's found his airplane to be indispensable.

"It's been a very important tool," he said. "I feel safer flying than I do driving. I fly 120 to 130 hours a year, and I still put 30,000 to 35,000 miles a year on my car," said Whitney, who has amassed between 2,300 and 2,400 hours as pilot in command.

He uses his Piper Cherokee 180, a four-seat, single-engine aircraft, to inspect potential farm and ranch listings and to give prospective clients an aerial view of rural property in which they've shown an interest.

"It's a good tool for viewing timber holdings and studying the accesses and potential road-building situations that a ranch might require," he said.

For example, some people called from Los Angeles, saying they wanted to buy a ranch in Oregon, so Whitney made arrangements to fly them around to view available ranches.

"A lot of ranch brokerage has to do with making sure the buyers are qualified," he said, noting that without doing so, a broker-pilot can wind up being a tour guide.

Some of Whitney's listings are distant, too, so having an airplane speeds access to them.

"We have properties in Wyoming we've represented - bought and sold - and properties in Medford, on Mount Hood, in Burns and in Baker and Wallowa counties," he said.

Whitney has been featured in "Farm & Ranch" a glossy real estate magazine that has number of regional editions. It's one of six media he uses to advertise his business. He also buys space in a variety of newspapers.

And while the advertising may bring the broker and the buyer together, Whitney has found on more than one occasion that taking his clients flying over available properties has helped to make the sale.

"I think it's made a difference in terms of representing properties, especially if there's a lot of rugged terrain," he said. "It's important to get on the ground, but from the air you can get sense of the interior of a ranch."

Dean Brickey can be reached at 1-800-522-0255 (ext. 1-248) or by e-mail at dbrickey@eastoregonian.com.

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