|Family members in aviation||The strip|
I don't ever remember a time when I didn't like flying or the idea of flying. When I was a boy, I knew I wanted to fly. I grew up on a farm near Xenia, Ohio. The Wright-Patterson Fields were only 16 miles away from Dayton. Army pilots did a lot of flying around my home town. Once a flight of 672 aircraft flew over our country fair. I used to ride my bike 16 miles to Wright Field just to watch airplanes from atop a ridge at the end of the field. I was hooked. In 1938, at the age of 17, I graduated from Xenia High School and entered Port Columbus Flying School. I began doing odd jobs for the pilots and instructors - gassing and washing airplanes, helping with banner towing, and doing line bay chores. I lived in a loft in the Curtiss Hanger with two other young pilots and we paid for our flying lessons by working at the airport. My pay was $60 a month. I remember winning a phonograph and bringing it to the loft. We thought we were in "high cotton."
That summer I soloed and earned my private pilot license. Fuzzy Robinson taught me to fly - one of the smartest men I ever knew, with a 5th grade education. He told about another young kid that used to hang around and pester him. Finally he agreed to let him fly - called him "Slim." Fuzzy said "son of a bitch up and flew the Atlantic." - Charles Lindbergh I suppose. I did learn how to fly and though I didn't fly the Atlantic, I did a lot of barnstorming and instructing. There are some crazy memories- flying under the Olantangee Bridge - flying over my old high school and dropping a roll of toilet paper out the window and cutting it in ribbons. Things were different back then.
During the Spring of 1939 I received my Limited Commercial, Commercial,
and Flight Instructor ratings. My pay went up to $80/month. Late
in 1939 our school received a contract from the government to teach several
pilot training classes. This program was called CPT or the Civilian
Pilot Training program . My boss bought a hangar on the Cleveland Airport
and sent me to teach the CPT program in Cleveland. I finished
two classes of 15 students during 1940. Republic Steel Corp. had a hangar
next door and flew Lockheed Lodestar and Lockheed 12 corporate aircraft. Late
in 1940 I was given a check ride in the Lodestar and hired as co-pilot
on their affiliate Aviation Corp.Aircraft, a twin-engine Barkley-Grow based
at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York. I flew the Barkley-Grow with
Aviation Corp. through all of 1941 and into the first few months of 1942.
We covered all of the U.S., Canada and Mexico. My Captain was
a great teacher and gave me a lot of the flying which included much flying
on instruments. I received my Instrument Rating late in 1941. We
flew in and out of LaGuardia Field a lot and one of the prettiest sights was
to see AAL DC-3's all lined up at the terminal with their flags proudly flying.
I knew then I wanted to fly for American. My boss knew how badly
I wanted to fly for American and shortly after my 21st birthday in
March he arranged an interview with Captain Vine, Chief Pilot of AAL. I
was hired and started co-pilot school in April of 1942.
I was always so proud to fly for American Airlines - they were then and are now - family. I flew the Convair 240 out of Cleveland and I loved that airplane. A film called "Three Guys named Mike" had its premier back then. I recall Irene and I and the entire AAL base went to this show. We were invited by the theatre to see it free. It was very representative of airline life in the late 40's and early 50's. Irene and I were newly married at the time, and she felt that it very accurately described the life and excitement of being an airline stewardess. Opportunites and enthusiasm were wide open back then.What great flights we had, stopping at Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Cinncinnati, Louisville on our way to Nashville and Memphis.
During my AA career, I was based in New York, Cleveland, Memphis, Dallas,
and Los Angeles, and flew the DC-3, through DC-10, the CV-240, the L-188,
and the Boeing 707-747. I flew the museum's own Flagship Knoxville on
12 trips while based in Cleveland. I also flew a three month, 168 city
vice-presidential charter with Hubert Humphrey. Our plane was named the "Happy
Warrior." When I retired from American Airlines on March 22, 1981, after
almost 39 years of service, I was number one on the seniority list. Recently,
through the C. R. Smith American Airlines Museum, I was allowed to dead-head
on an inaugural flight for a Boeing 777 coming out of Seattle, Washington.
What a thrill!