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.
- Flying it home for the first time - April 11, 2016
- The day the dream flew away - April 8, 2015
I enjoyed your article very much. It is different when you own and fly your own airplane, but you have mny options still available. Why not join a flying club?
My caregiver status keeps me tied pretty close to home these days, but will keep your suggestion in mind.
Thank you for a touching story. It’s always hard to let a good airplane go, but it must be especially so when you’ve owned and cherished one for nearly 40 years. All of us who own and love our airplanes will follow you some day, so your article gives us something to think about for when that sad day comes.
Thank you, Hunter. Over the years I watched other pilots reach that place, but somehow overlooked the inevitability for me too. My advice is to fly often and enjoy every flight to the fullest.
Thanks, Gregg. I am 67 and have enjoyed my airplane for 22 years. We have “improved” together and taken good care of each other. I hope I can make it to 38 years.
You are an outstanding example of how priorities must be respected and graciously accepted.
thank you, Jim.
I too hope that you and your airplane reach the 38 year mark or beyond.
beautiful story, thank you.
Thanks Liad, I am glad you enjoyed it.
Enjoyed the story, Gregg. For all of us, relinquishing the freedom is inevitable, but at least you can say you achieved your goal. You had that magic carpet for a while. Thanks for the “pictures.”
Thank you Dave,
It was a somewhat delayed “ride”, but more damn fun! Wish I could do it again, but there’s solace in good memories.
Greg, Good Afternoon. This may or may not fit you. Nice article. I figure you are 80 yrs.old. If this is correct then you are intitled to become a member of the United Flying Octogenarians. There are 1456 of us in the world. I am a board member living in WA as you are. I would like you to join us if you have flown PIC after you 80 birthday.
I am 91 and have just sold my PA32. Piper Cherokee 6. I would like to send you an app if this makes sense to you. We are having in get-together at PAE on May 12. Please join us and listen to how good we all use to fly. Warm regards, Bill Webber 509-466-2026
Thanks for your kind words and invitation. I’m six months short of the qualification age. If opportunity comes my way to fly PIC later, I’ll be
Gregg-:) Oh the nostalgia! The Silvaire was the first airplane I flew back in 1947 at Oxnard, CA. I was enrolled in the GI Bill at the Coast Aero Sales CAA approved flight school. I ultimately completed the Private, Commercial and Instrument Pilot certificates in the many aircraft on their flightline. But the Silvaire sticks in my memory as my favorite two place ship. I even did my commercial 200-mile X-country in one of them.
We did aerobatics as required by the CAA syllabus for those certificates in those days which scared a number of people out of flying then and subsequently GAMA pressure on the Fed’s caused changes in the requirements with what I believe cause some of the various stall induced accidents that occur even to this day. (Did you ever do a tail slide, loop or 3-turn spin in 77K? Those I flew did them real well and quietly. I feel sure you miss her badly – – Warren
A great recounting, Warren. Thanks. I used to spin her up to 3 turns years ago, but stopped given the airplane age and the rapid increase in rotation as the spin went on. Fun though! Gregg
Gregg, you and that Luscombe were joined at the hip. I know it was a tough decision to ‘let her fly away’ but look at the memories that bird has given you.
Very true, Tom; thanks for your comment. Gregg
Read your story with an effort to know how I will be when it is time to quit flying. I am 77 now and have had my Swift for 15 years. Probably a good airplane for me as it is not easy to get in and out of the cockpit, so health permitting, that may be the limit.
Like you I have spent a lot of time just just cleaning, waxing, and arranging cockpit stuff and survival kit. Maybe relax on the hangar furniture, put up the Happy Hour flag, and just look at her. Maybe that is what it will do when I can not fly. Just keep her around as decoration in my place to go for memories. All I ever done is fly. Soloed in 1957 so it has been 60 years. How can it end?
You may recall the old pilot’s observation on the ending of one’s flying:
He said if you fly long enough one of two things will happen;
1. — one day you’ll walk out to the airplane knowing this will be your last flight. Or
2. — one day you’ll walk to the airplane not knowing it’ll be your last flight.
I used to laugh at that story, but now with a four- year perspective as a ground pounder it’s crystal clear to me that option 1. is best.
Just like the late, great Dick Collins, I will endeavor to choose option 1.
Greg. I just sold my Cessna 180 after 38 years. I had/have the same feelings that you stated so well. I am 80 and still have my Waco so will have to find out about the over 80 group. Time flys when your having fun.. regards