Foster Lane was born in 1903, the year the Wright Brothers changed everything with their first powered flight. He started flying in 1925, getting his first ride in a barnstormer’s Curtiss JN4 Jenny. Lessons began and he bought his first airplane, a used Waco 9, in 1928. He literally lived the birth of aviation in the 1920s.
Starting out as a starving barnstormer flying the hills and dales of Ohio, he then moved into more steady work as a flight instructor and company pilot at various operators in the Cleveland area. Most of the airplanes were OX5 powered so Foster became very proficient at forced landings. During the roaring 20s, new flying opportunities kept coming his way. He flew everything he could get his hands on. Of course, the Great Depression had other ideas and in 1929 Foster found himself struggling to make ends meet in what was a fledgling industry.
Foster persevered and with the help of his new wife, Ruth, launched Lane Aviation in Columbus, Ohio. It was a rocky start, but they put their hearts and souls into the business.
When WWII broke out, Lane Aviation had to relocate to Don Scott Field, now The Ohio State University airport. They were a Navy War Training Services contractor and trained over 1000 pilots in primary, secondary, cross-country, and aerobatics courses before the war came to a close.
Foster and Ruth moved the business back to Port Columbus and in the post-war general aviation boom they became big-time aircraft dealers, selling hundreds of aircraft.
Aircraft changed dramatically from the time Foster first broke the surly bonds of Earth to when he hung up his spurs at 91 years young. Airplanes were fragile arrangements of wood, fabric, and wire. Stress analysis wasn’t even considered, and stability and control were up to the pilot. Foster was front-and-center when it came to many of the improvements in safety and reliability we saw over the years.
Foster witnessed our airspace system come of age as well; starting with nothing and progressing all the way to our current construct of land and space-based precision navigation.
In his 70 years in aviation, he witnessed many accidents and lost friends, but he always tried to learn from each situation and move forward.
He continued to build his business up to the day he passed.
To say that Foster has done it all in aviation, is an understatement. He was an accomplished barnstormer. He was a prolific flight instructor, teaching hundreds to fly, many of whom went on to airlines or war. He was also an aerobatic pilot. He flew charter before there was such a thing as FAR 135 regulations. He conducted test pilot duties for a few of the manufacturers. He flew worldwide delivering new Cessnas, taking Ruth with him on many of the trips. They were dealers for Piper, Cessna, Waco, Republic, Culver, Taylorcraft, and also Navion.
In 1995 Foster passed away at 92, holding a valid medical certificate right up to a year before he died.
One of his legacies is his massive FBO facility that lives on at Port Columbus. Lane Aviation has been in business continuously for 78 years and is still owned by the family. They also have a satellite facility at Rickenbacker airport on the southeast side of Columbus.
Foster Lane was a true aviation pioneer and ambassador who helped forge the industry we know and love today. Hats off to one of the unsung fathers of general aviation. God Speed Foster Lane.
- Why do we stink at being safe? - June 21, 2013
- Pioneer aviator Foster Lane - January 7, 2013
- Geraldine Mock and the Spirit of Columbus - November 19, 2012
Hats off to guys like that. I never knew his story until now. Nice tribute.
Thanks! You’re right, there are a lot of unsung heros, like Foster, that built the industry that we enjoy today!
As a teenager growing up in Ohio (mid 80’s) I used to ‘hang out’ at the top level of the parking garage at Port Columbus, watching planes come and go on 10/R/28L. Lane Aviation sat right off that runway and seemed always busy with GA activity. great memories.
That’s cool! Thanks for sharing. I live in Columbus now and buy my oil from Lane, they’re still a huge operator.
I had the pleasue of working for Lane Aviation from 1971 thru 1975. I worked at ramp service on the second and third shift. It was my first introduction to GA. I got my Private license while working theere. Many good memories are at that place.
I had the pleasure of mowing Foster Lanes lawn every Saturday in the summer months while attending school in Columbus in the mid 70’s. He owned an old International Cub lawn tractor. Afterwards we would play tennis on his court in the back of his property and Ruth always and graciously prepaired us lunch. I remember the Bricklend sports car that had less than a 1,000 miles on it. I washed it a few times but he would never let me drive it. Couldn’t blame him there. He was a very very nice man that I will never forget.
I had the pleasure of landing at Port Columbus Airport and parking at Lane Aviation more than once during the days North American Rockwell was producing the Forward Section of the B-1A Bomber at their plant on the airport.
Good people, great facilities. I also cleared customs there and was surprised at the friendliness of the agents.
I too, had a personal relationship with Foster as he was a neighbor of my parents. I enjoyed helping him on some projects around the home, tune up his Jaguar Mk 10 and visit with Ruth’s mother on several occasions.
Foster met with Robert Scott of the Flying Tigers one evening when Robert was spending the evening at our home. My father called Foster, noted Robert Scott was visiting and Foster enjoyed the evening reminiscing about things.