Tom Haines

Airplanes: A link to our past

June 17, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

Long-lived as they are, airplanes connect us to our past. One airplane connected to my past lives on. N757PU is a Cessna 182RG that belonged to my primary flight instructor, John Julian, and his wife Bernice. For decades the two were aviation fixtures in northwestern Pennsylvania. It seemed John taught the whole region to fly–and then some. He died last year, leaving Bernie with the task of dealing with the 182. Understandably, she was reluctant to part with it, but knew it would be better flying often. John, also an A&P, would want it that way. So how fitting that one of John’s former students, Rick Keys, would buy it from Bernie. Rick and I were in flight training and ground school at about the same time back in the 1970s. He went on to a career in the Navy. Rick sent me an email recently admitting the purchase was made in part because of the connection to John. Bernie was in tears as she signed the bill of sale–sad to see it go, but happy to see it “stay in the family,” as it were. Congrats, Rick. Take care of that old girl–our connection to the innocence of those early flying days.

What airplanes have touched your life and link you to the past?


16 Responses to “Airplanes: A link to our past”

  1. Apt604 Says:

    The airplane that will always stick with me is N731FE, my dad’s old Cessna P210. I think I was 7 or 8 when my dad first got it, and I threw up in it almost every time I was in it. In spite of the airsickness, it left me fascinated about flying, a fascination that continued to grow even after he sold it – and a quarter of a century later, I now have a license of my own.

    I’d sure love to welcome it back into the family someday . . . but I suppose I’ll have to just be happy knowing that it’s still flying, and that the current owner even gave it a great new paint job : )

  2. Rick Keys Says:

    Nice piece Tom. I will take good care of 7PU. I know the way John fussed over his planes. Her first flight since moving to Virginia will be an Angel Flight mission this weekend.

  3. David Reinhart Says:

    Back in 1979 I got to ferry a 1948 Cessna 120 from Tulsa, Oklahoma to Hanscom Field (BED) outside of Boston. The aircraft had only a 10 channel com radio (mostly ground control frequencies for some reason) and it quit working around Ohio. There was no nav radio and this was long before GPS. The only gyro instrument was a turn & bank.

    I did the flight planning by having AAA make me a Trip-tik and then transferred the route to sectionals. We took along a pair of binoculars to help read the town names on water tanks along the way. The whole trip was IFR (I Follow Roads), which worked out fine until the Western part of NY state where some major highway construction screwed up our landmarks.

    It took us five days, dodging the back side of the slowest moving cold front I’d ever seen. We’d wake up to beautiful weather, fly about four hours, and run into the backside of that front and stop for the day.

    The airplane was N76646. The last time I checked it was still around and living in Southern California. I wish it well.

  4. Steve F. Says:

    When I was a youngster, trolling for rides at the local flying club the planes that I enjoyed were Champs, Ercoupes, Stinsons and Tri-Pacers. My first airplane was a 1957 TriPacer and I enjoyed that for many years. Not only did it fly well, but the feeling and the scents of that airplane always took me back to being that kid again. I reveled in every minute of flight in N7315D.

    Another airplane that I always wanted to own and fly was a Beech Bonanza. I finally worked my way up to a 1958 J model, N7289B. Although aged, I relaced the interior and got it repainted to the point that it looked absolutely brand new.. a 1958 time capsule. What an airplane that was… fast, efficient and just a gem. Sadly, it became converted into college tuition money for the kids.

    Today I fly a vintage 172 (not a Skyhawk, I tell today’s new pilots). My 1956 172 also harkens back to an earlier time and we still do a lot of the things on weekends that pilots do… although much more leisurely now. The advantage… with kids in college, it is affordable, and everyone knows how to work on 172s… everywhere. I fly from Texas to OSH with 20A… “small airplanes can fly big distances.. you just need to give them lots of time.” a friend of mine once told me… and that was Gordon Baxter. He believed and I still do.. in keeping them flying.. for an airplane is more than an assemblage of parts.. it has a soul and joins with the pilot when they are in the air to become one entity.

    Keep ’em flying. Free skies forever!

  5. John Ritchie Jr. Says:

    When I was a child, my dad used to take my brother and me for rides in Champs and Cubs which were easily available for rent at about $5 an hour (wet). But a friend of ours was recovering a 1953 Tri-Pacer N3311A, and in 1973 my dad bought it from him. I can still remember smelling for the first time the smell of fresh Randolph dope and avgas, and the musty smell of the cockpit. We spent many hours cruising the skies of central North Carolina…Eventually dad slowed down and I bought it from him in 1989. Since then, my wife and I have rasied a family and taken many trips with them in our bird to all points east of the Mississippi. What an amazing time machine Mr. Piper created. Today, every time I climb in the cockpit it still reminds me of those wonderful Saturday afternoons in North Carolina, hanging around May’s Airport and watching the Cubs, Luscombes, and Stinsons putter around the pattern. Unfortunately, that’s all gone, but we’re still here!

  6. John Esposito Says:

    Ever wonder what happened to the aircraft you first soloed? I remember that most memorable day on Sept.11, 1961. (my sixtenth birthday) The aircraft was an Aeronca 7FC
    with a C90 engine and my curiousity took me to the FAA database and
    there she was….N7480B……built in 1957 and still active.
    Flown by instructors that are now retired airline Captains and chief pilots
    of major corporations she still has the ability to give an aspiring aviator or
    young eagle a taste aviations future.
    Hat’s off to those that kept her flying!

  7. Eric Cobb Says:

    The first time I was introduced to an aircraft, I was a small boy, nine year old and my father had just bought a 1956 Cessna 172, N6739A. Instantly I fell in love with the smell of aviation. I remember being fascinated by the way the flaps worked, looking into the engine compartment, and checking the oil. My father was getting checked out with his instructor and I got to ride in the back seat. I knew I belonged at the controls the instant I boarded the plane.
    We kept flying around while my father was learning all the ins and outs of this plane and soon I fell asleep. I woke just as we turned on final for landing. The machine touched earth so smoothly and gently that I was deeply hooked from that moment on. Whenever my parents could not find me they knew to go to the airport. The airport soon became a safe place for me with its open space and planes of all types taking off and landing. My father liked to fly early in the morning, awaking me at four o’clock to be taking off when the sun was just peaking over the horizon. I can still hear him saying, “This is as close to God as I can get.” We spent many hours bonding while my father taught me how to fly. Sometime later when I went for my license, Cessna was offering a five dollar introductory flight which I took. While returning to the airport the instructor let me take the controls, I could see a puzzled look on his face when he asked, “Have you ever flown before?” I told him, “I read about it once but it doesn’t seem so hard to me.” I never told him about flying with my father. Shame on me.

  8. Lawrence Terrigno Says:

    Actually, there were two airplanes that will forever live in my heart. N118C & N120C…..both pristine Mooney Mites. In the early years of the 1970’s my dad satisfied a dream he had since he first saw a Mite. He vowed that someday he’d own one. He eventually restored two to show stopping beauty. I remember each Saturday morning pulling up to the hangar at Corona Airport in Southern California…. hoping that I’d get a chance to fly the Mite again. Dad won numerous trophies with both Mites, even a Lindy at Oshkosh…but flying in that little machine, well, that was nothing short of heaven. She was so light on the controls, a finger tip was all that was needed on the stick. She would almost respond to your thoughts alone. She could climb and climb and make you feel like you were on top of the world….and you were! Sliding the canopy back, putting your elbows over the cockpit edge and listening to the short stacks on the 65 horse Lycoming…..well, you just had to be there. So much fun!

    Both N118C & N120C are still making their owners smile. One being pampered by owners on the East coast and one now chasing clouds over Porterville, California. If you ever get the opportunity to share the skies in a Mite, don’t hesitate. The experience will stay with you forever!

    Happy Flying!

  9. Joseph Brown Says:

    My first ‘job’ was after school and weekends at Redlands Aviation Maintenance in Redlands Calif. It was 1972 and I was 15. One of the two owners, Fred Davis, owned N3467F a Cessna 182 that the company had bought wrecked and rebuilt and kept for business flights. I was able to go with Fred on flights to area airports and sometimes on Saturdays he’d fly someplace for lunch or practice IFR approaches at Riverside or Ontario, and I often got to go on those also. That first Christmas I worked there they got me started by giving me my first block of flight lessons to get me started flying on my own I worked with Fred and Denny over four years until they split up and Fred moved to Northern California. Now that due to costs, my flying is winding down, I’ll always remember my early years “working at the Airport” and my flights with Fred in 3467Foxtrot!

  10. Steve Vana Says:

    After flying with my uncles as a boy growing up in Cleveland, I earned my license as a senior during the fall quarter of 1975 at Ohio University in Athens. My first solo x-c was Parkersburg / Wheeling / Zanesville in N900U, a new C-150 from the University’s fleet. I’ll never forget my only near mid-air, eastbound on the way to PKB, a mallard drake SW bound at 3500. He was not flying under cardinal altitude rules. He probably cleared the prop by a few inches. I don’t know where that plane is today, as the school kept the N numbers as the aircraft cycled out of the inventory. I soloed her at 9 hours and loved to work her around tight in the pattern and “roll it on”. It was sure fun to fly, even at an “exorbitant” $16.50 an hour.

  11. Tia Robertson Says:

    I learned to fly in 1980 in a 1947 Luscombe N2427K. My father bought the airplane so my brother, sister and I could learn to fly. The flying bug bit me really hard and I continued to earn my instrument, multi, CFI and ATP. Through many years of flying I made my way to the left seat of a 737 with United Airlines. My fathers Luscombe fell into disrepair ( he always had a plan to get it going again). My husband and I kept it in the hangar with our 195 and Taylorcraft hoping one day the Luscombe would fly again with our two teenage sons in it. Unfortuantely, two weeks ago my father decided to “get rid” of it. The airplane is gone, but the hundreds of hours flown and memories of lessons learned in it will remain.

  12. Rui Alexandre Says:

    Well, to me that would have to be an old Shorts Skyvan, flying in Angola in the mid seventies. I don’t know what has become of it. It was affectionally called, in the portuguese language, “Mariquinhas”, something freely translatable to Sissy. People used to refer to that airplane as if it were another person, not a machine. It was in that aircraft that I was first fascinated by looking at the world from above, the far dirt roads leading to god knows where over the african wilderness, the sights of cumulus from above… It was in this airplane that I was first invited into the cockpit and took the pilot’s seat (more like the pilot’s lap!). I was so shy that I cried! It was also that same aircraft that flew my labouring mother to a hospital to deliver me, under gunfire and landed with a flat tire. Also engraved in my memories is the smell of avgas, its cabin odours, the beauty of its lines (at least to me) and the engine song routine that I had memorised, from startup to shutdown ( I could sing the whole flight). Today I own a PPL, much thanks to that mysterious pilot, whose surname I never forgot – Teles, and the unforgetable Skyvan “Mariquinhas”.

  13. John B Kays Says:

    That would be N765N, my Airforce cadet roommate’s 1929 Bird with a 165 Kinner. In March of 1950 we flew the Bird from Pasco, WA to
    Lubbock, TX fpr Advanced Flight Training in B-25s. During this six month multi-engine training period we spent weekends flying the Bird. During this period we had one forced landing in a wheat field and one attempt at stealing the Bird by a ‘washed-out’ cadet. This Bird was special since Wiley Post had made log book entries and his name plate was in the rear cockpit. The Bird was traced down and recovered from the plane-napper, however, the original log books were never found. Upon our graduation my roommate, Olie, traded the Bird to a crop-duster in Texas and I began to periodically check the location of the Bird through the registration number. It ended up as a duster in Idaho for a long period of time and then in 2006 it was acquired by George Jenkins who is having it restored to it’s original condition for his museum in Pennsylvania…….so perhaps there is a chance that I might again see N765N. Following a four year Airforce assignment flying C-47, C-54 and C-124 aircraft I returned to General Aviation ranks with a 15 year attachment to a bare-bones Piper Clipper (now in Canada as CF-BSM) and my current aircraft, N3795T, a 1967 Piper Arrow owned for 35 years and now located here at home at 2WA1. Each aircraft owned has been second only to my copilot wife and my son and daughter, who grew up during the ‘Clipper’ years!

  14. Rick Saltzman Says:

    I’d like to add some to David Reinhart’s story as he was kind enough to deliver NC76646 to me. He received the Order of the Rusty Razor Blade for his efforts as I recall. I completed my private training in this fine example of 1946 technology, although I was not allowed to take my check ride in it (the two channel radio was one of the reasons). I completed five cross country trips (from MA to CA and back and vice-versa), in the dozen years I owned it. Binoculars were optional as flying close enough to municipal water towers to read the name of the town was the nominal supplement to IFR (roads and railroads) navigation. Off airport operation was exceptional in this bird. Dave and I grew up in the Mojave and this plane saw more dry lake/river bed landings than any other kind while hangared at Daggett. Pulling creosote leaves out of the nav lights was not uncommon after a particularly low pass to look at the landing area. I cannot say enough good things about aircraft. Thank you Dave.

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