Local veteran brings passion for airplanes to the restaurant scene

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MIDLAND, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24)- A Midland man made his mark on West Texas 38 years ago when he opened the first of it’s kind charcoal grill. It’s called Michael’s Restaurant. Once you step foot inside you will realize there is none like it.

“I come in early in the morning, get the steam table going, put the ribs in the oven…I always had my eye on the restaurant business,” said owner Michael Shapira.

But, he wanted his restaurant to be unique. An eatery you won’t find anywhere else. And that’s exactly what he achieved. When you look up, your eyes will immediately be drawn to model airplanes that are everywhere.

“I wanted to fly. This happens to a lot of people they get the bug and they dream of flying and it happened to me at a very young age,” said Shapira.

His passion of planes led him to serve his country in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

“They took relatively inexperienced guys like me and moved us from co-pilot to aircraft commander in the left seat and it was our airplane and we were all lieutenants,” said Shapira.

His job was to fill up fuel tanks for planes that were low. “We were the ‘flying gas station’ as they called it,” said Shapira.

His role was as important as any in the War.

“There was an F-4 extremely low on fuel and he was calling us. He said stick the boom in my nose now. He said I’m on empty. So the boom operator plugged it into him and we started pumping gas and it really wasn’t considered an aircraft save but he was low. He needed help,” said Shapira.

Shapira served 3 years in Vietnam and says he only has great memories.

“I enjoyed every flight. My instructor told me, ‘I have seen people who can fly better than you can, but I’ve never seen anybody who liked it like you,'” said Shapira.

While Michael’s flying days have come to an end, he now invests his time in the restaurant, taking care of his customers.

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