On a rainy August morning, the people who bought my airplane came to Washington to fly it home to Northern California. I was numb during the exchange of money and completion of documents because it marked the end of 38 years of flying/caring for that airplane.
77K had lived with me in California, Kentucky, Washington and we shared many memorable flights. I took great pride in that polished aluminum bird and preened a bit whenever she won an award at fly-ins. At those times it amused me to imagine the likely amazement of 1946 Luscombe factory folks in Dallas if they knew how good she looks at age 68, or even that she’s still flying in 2015.
My ruminations included remembering that I became aware of Luscombes at age 11 from ads in aviation magazines following WWII which proclaimed attributes such as all metal construction, “America’s first all metal personal airplanes,” “No wood, No Nails, No Glue,” etc.
Awareness of aviation arrived for me with a rag-wing biplane flying low over our backyard in 1939 Seattle. The four-year old staring upward was transfixed and, I’m told, refused to come inside, sure the airplane would return.
After no further sightings two hours later, I went in and began a lifetime of searching out airplanes, reading everything available on aviation and dreaming about flying. Gas-powered models scratched that itch for many boyhood years. But my first ride in an airplane, a Piper Cub on floats off Lake Washington, sealed the deal. I had to learn to fly.
Reading suggested that military flight training was the world’s best (and cheapest for the student pilot) which inspired me to enlist in the NAVCAD program after two years of college. Sadly it didn’t produce the desired result as I (unrecognized by me at the time) suffered from a serious case of teenage dumb ass, resulting in my washing out of the program. But the humiliation did drive home a hard-earned lesson: pay close attention and work hard or you cannot compete.
After completing naval service it was back to college, then marriage, fatherhood and career duties which forced the dream to the background. But I had realistic nighttime dreams of my limited time in the cockpit which kept the dream alive. In a few years I was able to take up flying again, earning my private ticket, commercial and instrument rating (while kicking myself for screwing the pooch at Pensacola).
I wanted to buy a personal airplane. But money was a major limiting factor so an easy-to-maintain, simple airplane was a necessity. One day while visiting friends at El Mirage field in Southern California, I spied the polished beauty of 77K tied down at a nearby house. Upon learning that the owner, a Marine pilot, needed money for the Pitts he was building I began a campaign to buy his Luscombe. At first, his wife, who wanted to take flying lessons, demurred, so no deal. But within a few weeks she relented and my youngest daughter, Valerie, and I flew commercial to John Wayne airport to pick up and fly the airplane home to Palo Alto.
For the next 38 years there were countless flying adventures, some equipment upgrades to the Luscombe as well as many therapeutic hours spent away from the corporate life polishing aluminum while enjoying the airport ambience.
Among the most memorable adventures in the Luscombe were three trips to Oshkosh, flying from California to Louisville for a corporate job transfer, and years later from LOU to OLM when I retired and built my retirement house on Henderson Inlet northeast of Olympia, Washington.
The decision to sell brought on by age and family health issues was sensible, even inevitable I suppose. It was traumatic to go from enjoying the greatest view in the world whenever I desired, to becoming a ground pounder. But I look skyward every single day and participate in hangar flying. And it’s great knowing the new owner is a professional pilot, flight instructor and A&P who without question will keep flying and caring well for 77K.