Blog – When I get ’round 2 it… Began 25 April 2020…
February 22, 2021… Two stalwart aviation greats have Gone West. Both, good friends and both legendary.
Captain Tex Searle 1927 – 2021
Texal Elijah Searle passed away February 13, 2021, in Sandy, Utah. He was 93 and the same age as his mentor, Captain Jack Bering Schade, was when he passed in 2014. Coincidence or providence…
Tex was born March 25, 1927, in Delta, Utah, to Charles D. and Ruth Maxfield Searle, the youngest of ten children. Tex married Esther Knight in the Salt Lake temple on October 18, 1950. They had four children. After Esther died in 2010, he married Mary Gwen Holdaway. She passed away in early 2013.
Tex grew up on the family farm in Delta. At age 17, he joined the US Navy and served onboard the aircraft carrier, USS Antietam. After the war, he farmed in Delta and was part owner and operator of the Bell Hill Mine in Juab County, where they mined fluorspar. Tex began working for the original Frontier Airlines in 1956 and flew for them for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1985. He wrote and published a book, “The Golden Age of Flying“, which was a collection of stories from pilots about the early days of Frontier Airlines.
Tex loved to fly, enjoyed hunting and fishing at Fish Lake, prospecting in the west desert, playing the piano, and practical jokes. He relished spending time with his family and his grandchildren. He often put on his old man mask, squawked his hearing aid, burst out in song, or told stories just to amuse or scare his grandkids. He cooked delicious barbecue.
He is survived by his children, Doug (Mona) Searle, Vicki Haight, Shawn (Ariane) Searle, ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren, and sister, Nedra Robison. Preceded in death by his wife, Esther, his wife, Mary Gwen, his close friend, Dora Hill, and his son, Kevin Searle.
Funeral services were held on Saturday, February 20, 2021 in Orem, UT.
Below: Tex as a US Navy seaman in WWII.
Below: Tex’s great book, The Golden Years of Flying, a best seller!
Below: Captain Jack Schade & Captain Tex Searle
GREAT X 2!
Below: Tex with a rare serious look. He could really spread the joy!
Below: Tex’s favorite seat, the left seat of a Frontier 737!
Colonel Ole Griffith 1921 – 2021 just three months from his centennial birthday.
Ole Curtis Griffith, Jr. passed peacefully into the arms of the Lord on February 17, 2021.
Colonel Griffith was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 22,1921 to Reverend and Mrs. O.C. Griffith. He attended Bellevue High School and Carnegie Institute of Technology, graduating in 1942 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Later he received a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University. He was also a graduate of the US Air Force Institute of Technology and the Air Command and Staff College.
Ole was commissioned in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in 1942 and graduated from flying school with the Class of 1943K. During World War II, Ole served with the 91st Photo Mapping Squadron in Central and South America. He served 28 years in various command, staff, and technical assignments. This included a tour of duty on the staff of the Secretary of Defense. He was a Command Pilot, with over 4,000 hours in more than 50 different types of aircraft. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, with Oak Leaf Cluster. He retired from the Air Force in 1970, and then joined the Garrett Turbine Engine Company in Phoenix, Arizona. There, he served in several engineering and program management positions, until his retirement in 1990.
Ole was proud that the B-25 he flew in South America is on display at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
Ole’s lifelong passion for aviation began on his 6th birthday, when the United States received word that Charles Lindbergh had landed in Paris, following his transatlantic flight. His love for photography began when he snapped a picture of Lindbergh in 1927, the first photo that he ever took.
Ole was a widely published writer and photographer. He served 2 terms as President of the Phoenix Wing of the American Aviation Historical Society. He was a member of the Air Force Association, the Military Officer’s Association, the Military Order of the Daedalians and the Quiet Birdmen. He was a founding member of both the National Air and Space Museum and The American Air Museum in Britain. His academic honors included membership in Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma, Theta Tau and Scabbard and Blade.
He was a lifelong learner, who was interested in everything. He was an avid reader, a world traveler, and a lover of family, God, and country. Ole never met a stranger and leaves behind hundreds of friends from all generations. He viewed death as an exciting adventure as he looked forward to meeting His Lord. Ole was an active participant at the Beatitudes Campus Retirement Community where he resided for 14 years.
Ole was predeceased by his parents, his wife, Victoria, his sister, Margaret Mooney, and his brother, Reverend John D. Griffith. His survivors include, son, Jeffrey, daughters, Jennifer Cecil (Darrell), Julie Anderson (Brad) and his girlfriend Joyce Stenquist and grandchildren, Audrey Kobsar (Jamie), Hilary Peele (Justin), Brandon Crowe (Brittany), Natalie Bowman (Tyler), Steven Anderson (Kristen), Zachary Cecil and Jodi O’Connor (Paul). He is also survived by 14 great grandchildren, Lincoln, Griffith, Bennett and Graham Crowe, Jaden, Jackson, and Keira Kobsar, Daelen, Easton, and Nolan Peele, Emerson and Cayden Bowman, and Abby Lynn and Hailey O’Connor and sister-in-law, Frances Griffith.
Services — Saturday. February 27, 2021 in Phoenix. The Arizona Stearman Squadron performing the Missing Man Formation in Ole’s honor.
February 15, 2021… Stanley Emmett Shaw RIP
…here is the story as to how Stan saved the day for me when I went to DEN for my year-end “bet your job” check-ride in the 580 “sim.”Being based in SLC I had little opportunity to get to DEN to avail myself of simulator time. I had good reports from the captains I flew with, but I was a nervous-nelly. I had heard stories of guys who busted their year-end probationary check-ride and were dismissed.On the way to DEN in a Frontier 727, I sat in the middle seat between Bill McChrystal and Bobby Bagshaw. Bill was the SLC Chief Pilot then. Bobby, one of the best guys ever to share the flight-deck with, said, “quit worryin’ — you’ll do fine. Bill McChrystal was equally consoling. Nice, but it did not help. I was wringing-my-hands-nervous!When I arrived at the sim (then on Smith Road), I stepped into the back where a couple of seats were installed for observers. I watched Jack Gardner administer Stan Shaw’s check-ride. I saw Stan make some glaring mistakes and thought, “Oh Lordy, Stan is history!” And, I became more hand-wringing-nervous!Soon, Stan’s check-ride was completed. Not only did Stan pass, Jack Gardner said little about what I thought were mistakes that would surely produce a failure. When I saw that Stan had indeed passed, I immediately relaxed and did better than ever before or after. Yup! Stan made my day back in 1968! We would laugh over that story many times.
February 13, 2021… Humanity said ‘goodby’ to one of it’s all-time best! Captain Pete Lamkin has Gone West around 7 PM February 13, 2021. He lined up on runway two-seven and, after a smooth lift off, is on a smooth westerly flight with warm-soft tailwinds, and a bright star to steer by.
I found some photos of Pete on my website. The one with Pete, Billy & Cheryl was taken in front of his residence in Longmont. What a fellow he was. Pete was such a great teacher. Just his way of dealing with life showed character of mega proportions. Most would shake their heads and marvel seeing him trudge to the airplane with a flight bag in one hand and an overnight bag in the other. A lesser person suffering with raging arthritis would pray for a wheel chair. Not Pete. Often someone would ask to carry his bags. Pete would softly decline. To say the Frontier folks revered Pete would be a gross understatement.
Before arthritis hit Pete, he was an amazing athlete. Captain Jim Appleby told me a story when Pete picked Jim up and lifted him over his head as though he was snatching a barbell!
RIP ol’ friend!
Above: Pete with Billy & Cheryl, Longmont, CO 2019
January 29, 2021… We no longer own the La Mirada Way home as of t’day! We are moved into the little condo in Paradise Village. Still a plethora of boxes to sort thru, but each day a bit better.
Some nice folks in this utopian environment. Last evening, Sam Jenkins, brought us a cooked salmon for our supper. Sam’s from Afton, Wyoming. So, we weren’t too surprised by his benevolence. We’ve met some nice folks as our new neighbors. Still, the neighbors we just moved from are unbeatable. “Terrific” comes to mind.
January 23, 2021… WOW! A month and a day since I scribbled down our doins! We sold our beautiful home backing up to Pima Canyon and South Mountain Park. We close on it in just five more days.
Cheryl and I lived there nearly eighteen years, the longest, by far, of anyplace we have ever lived. We loved the home and our neighbors. Especially, our neighbors, the absolute BEST! But, with this infernal aging thing we thought it was time to get into the condo living thing. No stairs, no pool to care for, no yard upkeep. Yup! I think this will work just fine. And, we are less than a half-hour from our “old” neighborhood. We plan on keeping in touch.
We wish you all all well, a safe year, a healthy year. The last one was definitely a do-over!
December 22, 2020… Still wrestling with the process of selling our home and moving into the Aderra condo we recently purchased. Hope all is going well with you and that you are SAFE n’ HEALTHY! And we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
December 10, 2020… We will be celebrating the end of a very bad year soon. But we will also be celebrating our son, Preston’s, 48th birthday (30th). No way can we have a “kid” that old! …and grown grandchildren. No one told us all this would happen so fast!
Hopefully, 2021 will be a year we can look forward to and, hopefully, n’joy!
We’ve been busy having bought a condo 25 minutes from our present home which we’ve just listed for sale. We close on the new place the 16th when the fun begins. GAWD we hate the moving process! In the last 50 years we’ve moved no fewer than eight times. Nuthin’ compared to my Nesbitt grandparents who moved NINETEEN time in their six decades t’gether. Cheryl and I are fast approaching our FIFTIETH anniversary! Some folks thought we wouldn’t make it a year! So far, so good!
We hope you are SAFE n’ HEALTHY! And comforted that Pfizer has come up with a vaccine for this terrible Chinese virus! I have complete trust in Pfizer! They are the same company that makes Viagra! If a company can raise the dead, they can certainly cure the living!
November 30, 2020… OKYDOKY, we are ending the next-to-the-last month of the absolutely worst year in the start of the decade! …can’t go anywhere but up from here!
Cheryl and I are caught up in the busyness of moving preparation. We interviewed several realtors and will sign an exclusive contract t’morrow and be on the multi-list. We’ll see how it goes!
I’ve been talking with John Waggener, archivist, at the University of Wyoming for much of mine and my father’s stuff. I was born and partially raised in Wyoming and my Dad’d aviation career was there. So, it’s a good fit albeit I went to Arizona State University and am a proud Sun Devil.
I had already donated my Dad’s Civil Air Patrol (CAP) items to the CAP. Now, it seems. there will be some sharing between the Arizona CAP, the Wyoming CAP and the UW archives. Nice to know my Dad’s stuff will be available to researchers downstream.
My Dad, W. Dillard “Pic” Walker learned to fly in Colorado as a teenager in 1924. He and a non-flying brother started a flight school and charter business, “Plains Airways, Inc.,” in Cheyenne, Wyoming. During WWII, Plains grew to three bases. Cheyenne was the main base. Laramie was affiliated with the University of Wyoming. Ft. Morgan. Colorado was pre-glider training.
My Dad was one of the founders of the the Civil Air Patrol and Wyoming’s first Wing Commander. During WWII Plains taught more than 10,000 pilots and mechanics their trade. He would be the first one chosen for the new Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame along with his best friend and colleague, Ralph Johnson. There were four inductees in the first celebration of the new Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame. Gen. Sam Phillips and famed airmail pilot, “Slim” Lewis would be the other two. It was 1995 two years after my Dad had Gone West. Ralph was the only one alive out of those four intrepid aviators chosen to start off the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame that Governor Hathaway served as introducer of the keynote speaker. Me. Humbling so it was. From 1995 until 2020 a single inductee has been chosen. This year there will be two.
November 21, 2020…
Cheryl and I have been busy. We bought a Condo near the PV Mall. We’ll close the escrow December 16th.
Likely, you know what a ‘Blivit’ is, right? A Blivit is 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound sack! That’s us! We’ve been in our present home for 17 1/2 years. We will miss it and, especially, our wonderful neighbors! But, we will soon be at that stage of life where stairs (we have 15 of ’em) and a pool are less desirable than they were a decade and a half ago. Our new condo has an elevator direct to our door as well as underground parking. Aderra Condominium development has really nice facilities with a very nice Embassy Suites hotel a short walk away for relatives and friends. We had our Air-America annual reunion there a few years ago.
November 7, 2020…
21 years ago, August 1999, was my last month with good ol’ America West Airlines. My last duty was to help deliver three Airbus A-319s from Hamburg, Germany to Phoenix, AZ. Three of us decided we would bring our wives along and make a nice vacation out of the excursion. Along with Cheryl and me, Capt. & Mrs. Larry Guthrie, Capt. Dale & Kim Churchill made up our fun group.
AWA would pay for the pilot’s tickets and we would be responsible for our wives tickets. Then, either Larry Guthrie or Dale Churchill discovered that we could fly over on the Concorde using our pass privileges and go positive space! WHAT! It worked out to be about $800 per couple, a fraction of the normal fare.
Boy Howdy! It all fell together smooth as a pair of silk shorts! We were treated royally by British Airways beginning with their hoity-toity first class lounge and on-board service. …you couldn’t blink without a flight attendant refilling your wine glass.
The cabin was tiny compared to a 747, with just 99 seats, all first class, small, but comfortable seats. The cabin windows were about the size of the bottom of a Budweiser beer bottle! Behind Cheryl’s seat sat George Lucas of Star Wars fame.
We barely knew sub-sonic to super-sonic. Nary a ripple. On the cabin display we saw that we were flying at Mach 2.1 (roughly 1612 MPH) at 58,000.’ It took us just 3 hours 12 minutes from JFK to Heathrow!
The Concorde burned the same fuel as a 747 taking twice as long for the same flight. We three guys were invited to the cockpit (also quite cramped) but friendly and impressive. Memorable!
The photo below was taken by an RAF Tornado in April 1985. Photographer Adrian Meredith climbed into a Royal Air Force Panavia Tornado twin-engine after-burning, variable-sweep multirole combat aircraft with a single mission…to capture a supersonic Concorde at altitude, high over the Irish Sea. This is the only photo of the Concorde flying supersonic!
As expected, the interception was successful, and after expending much of her fuel, the Tornado rendezvoused with the Concorde south of Ireland at over twice the speed of sound (Mach 2.0). The RAF fighter could only do so for a short time due to the enormous rate of fuel burn. Soon after joining the white delta winged SST airlines five miles above the ocean, the Tornado fighter jet was forced to break formation and head for it’s base, while the Concorde effortlessly and gracefully cruised faster than words can be carried…on to New York City.
Above: Earle Morency and I in the cockpit of the first Concorde. Toulouse, France 2006. We sat there thinkin’ “ManOMan I’d like to fly this thing!” Earle, a really good fellow, and I flew t’gether at the original Frontier Airlines and, later, JetBlue Airways.
I made 77 North Atlantic crossings with Cheryl going on 36 of them and not counting the fast flight in the Concorde. Hard to believe I’ve been retired almost twenty years!
November 4, 2020... OK so what can I say good about t’day? I’m workin’ on it…
October 28, 2020… After enduring a record HOT summer we’ve suddenly switched gears into the low 40’s at night but still nice in the 70s during the day.
Cheryl and I voted early. I hand-carried our ballots to one of the polling places and personally stuck ’em in the slot. Hopefully, our votes will count.
We’ve been busy with our airplane sales on-line and, for the most part, staying close to home. We are hopeful this awful pandemic will end and we can work on adjusting to a new-normal!
I had a deeeelightful call this mornin’ from Captain Owen Clifton, a senior captain with JetBlue. Nearly 21 years ago we worked t’gether. Owen is a check-airman and recently caught a ride on Delta. The Delta captain was long-time friend Mark Holt. Mark has authored several aviation books such as Turbine Pilots Flight Manual. Another example how aviation has shrunk the world. Another case of “…would you happen to know?”
Captain Holt is the very one who persuaded me to write FLY THE WING now in it’s Fourth Edition published by ASA: https://www.asa2fly.com/Fly-The-Wing-P4064.aspx
So, in the past couple of days I’ve re-connected with a couple of ol’ friends. Yup! Deeeelightful!
Then, I heard from UPS captain, Rick Ferrin. I sold Rick N-68832 recently. 832 was my pal, Roger Parrish’s, beloved Stearman that he flew the last twenty or so years of his life. Roger was legendary as a warrior and Commander/Leader of the Thunderbirds.
Rick has honored Roger’s memory by putting Roger’s name under the cockpit ring. It’s still Roger’s airplane! Rick is now the caretaker and a better one would be hard to find.
October 19, 2020... T’day is a sad day in the Arizona Aviation Community. Legendary aviator, LeRoy Peterson has Gone West. LeRoy finally succumbed to a long debilitating illness.
Here’s a photo of LeRoy and his beautiful Howard DGA 15. DGA = Damn Good Airplane and it is! In the photo is Terry Emig at who’s Casa Grand hangar LeRoy kept his Stearman and Howard for a while.
A few years ago I had the pleasure of having LeRoy and Peggy on board a training flight in the Airbus A-320. This morning we all are flashing back to the many fly-in breakfasts we n’joyed at their fly-in home at Aguila (west of Wickenberg). In the photo below of LeRoy’s home/hangar, if you look close, you’ll see tire marks from Terry’s Stearman on the roof of the hangar! I know, you’ve told me a million times not to exaggerate…
October 15, 2020… Cheryl discovered a Diamond-in-the-Rough! We’ve lived in The Valley of the Sun since 1987. Actually, I lived here before that having moved here as a senior in high school in 1958. After college I was off on my dream-chase finally moving back after Cheryl and Preston (tired of the snow and cold at our Colorado ranch at 8200′ above sea level) made their demands.
That we had never heard of the Southwest Wildlife Conservation folks, located in the desert northwest of Scottsdale, is puzzling. Now we know about this marvelous place where wildlife are saved and re-introduced to the wild. A number of the animals, not able to be re-introduced, are exhibited in a well-run and organized natural environment.
Put this on your bucket list! You will not be disappointed. The place is teeming with the Mexican Grey Wolf, Foxes of all kinds, Desert Tortoise, Coyotes, Bobcats, Mule Deer, Coatimundi, Mountain Lions, and Black Bears. …and “Goliath!” Goliath is a large non-Arizona species of tortoise and he roams the ground regally.
All-in-all this was a delightful experience for Cheryl and me. …and we’ll return, hopefully introducing friends and family to this special place.
Incongruous as it seems, just prior to telling you about our trip to Southwest Wild Animal Conservation Center, I had posted a lion hunting message with photos from nearly SEVENTY years ago. I have never hunted lions albeit I used to be a hunter. Deer, Antelope, Elk, and wild fowl. I don’t hunt anymore. I prefer to see the animals. I still support hunting and the 2nd Amendment. Hunting, helps the husbandry of wildlife.
Being raised on a Wyoming cattle/sheep ranch. We hunted simply because it was in our DNA. My father argued that our family would much rather eat venison or elk than butcher one of our Herefords. We all knew the importance of hunting especially when many of the predators were themselves culled.
I stopped hunting when we had our Rainbow Trout Ranch in Colorado. We had a herd of Elk that migrated thru our place twice a year. Some forty of these magnificent animals. I got to where I could actually “bugle” with the Bulls during rutting season. Once, one large bull came to within 50 yards of me before he recognized my fraud.
We had hunters ask to hunt on our place. My pat response was, “We hunt any hunters on our place!” And, we posted it as no hunting. I ended up giving my 7mm magnum Remington with it’s Redfield wide-angle scope to my mechanic, Lance Winter.
October 12, 2020… Sorting thru photos – I came across a couple of lion hunting photos from my days in Saratoga, Wyoming. Here is Len Walker & Win Condict with the lions (later on exhibit in a large and magnificent glassed display at the Rustic Bar).
October 7th, 2020… The note below comes from Bill & Claudia Allen, Allen Airways (KSEE) Gillespie Field, near San Diego:
I have been contacted by the fellows in Galesburg that put on the Stearman Flyin about a project
They got a 60 year lease on the airport for $1.00 a year and have plans to build a 100×80 hangar for the Stearman organizations & flyins. ( offices, hangar space, museum, meeting facility, headquarters)
Local folks in Galesburg ( 30,000 population ) have put up about $ 450,000 towards the building.
They need to raise another
$800,000 and want to spread the word seeking any donations – the donation info will be in the next Flying Wire publication
Please pass this around and send them a donation
Ps naming opportunities for larger donations”
October 3rd, 2020… T’day marks a month until the November 3rd national election and our growing concern for all that is happening globally that can and will affect us in America. The President and First Lady are very ill with the awful Chinese virus while, simultaneously, the subversives busy themselves in their attempt to steal the election. A lot for we Conservatives to overcome! Our prayers are with our country and to the President and First Lady🙏🏻
Our nephew, Kurt Garbin, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado was here to spend a few days visiting his Mom (my sister) and Norm Tisdale. We n’joyed a couple of very pleasant evenings together. Kurt is also a pilot with his own airplane & hangar. He also is one of the most successful heavy equipment salesmen in the country as a regional salesman for McCoy Caterpillar Co.
October 2, 2020… Amazing! My pal, Larry Duthie, KIA in 1967 and, later, resurrected has written his memoire, a must read! Also, check out the story I wrote about ‘Gruff!’
September 28, 2020… T’day the T-28B (N-280CM) flies to Goshawk Aviation (KCGZ) for it’s Condition Inspection. This has been a busy week with the airplane sales business. A good thing, right?
I can not say ’nuff about my pal Larry Perkins and all the help he’s been with my airplane sales projects. Thanks to ace mechanic, Lance Winter, for his support as well!
Ed Duckworth with Irene Burnett owner of N-280CM & Larry Perkins
T’day it was Ed Duckworth’s turn!
September 22nd, 2020… This 5th grader has it figured!
September 20th, 2020… If you’ve had problems reading the Mike Daciek stories, finding that there are no photos populating, we are working the problem. Apparently, the WORD PRESS website program will not automatically populate the photos with the story. Most likely, it is me not yet knowing how…
I just received a copy of a new literary effort by former US Navy CDR Don “Inky” Purdy. Where the High Winds Blow is also the title to a poem he wrote honoring Lady Jesse. I hope you saw the great documentary tribute to Lady Jesse. I’ll hunt up the link and post that as well.
September 13th, 2020… I’ve been in hiding! Cheryl reminded me that I turn 79 the 30th. I’ve been trying to figure out how to avoid more of this aging process. I’ve not been good at avoiding or aging! But, by gosh I’m still on this side of the grass pluggin’ away. I’m still flying some albeit much less than last year when I was flying paid rides in the Stearman.
If you haven’t checked out the cool airplanes I have for sale be sure to click on the Aircraft and Parts For Sale page!
August 26, 2020… Boy Howdy have I been remiss from checkin’ in! Hopefully, the following “Blast from the Past” will assuage you some…
I’m in the middle of going thru “stuff” with the plan of keeping little and tossin’ out a lot of a half-century accumulation. I came across a note from the late Percival Hopkins “PH” Spencer.
PH or “Spence” was an Early Bird (Membership was limited to those who piloted a glider, gas balloon, or airplane, prior to December 17, 1916). Spence and my father were friends through Billy Parker (an esteemed mentor of mine) also an Early Bird and one who’s story is located within my website.
What brave and extraordinary men these were. PH was a member of the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers as was my father, my mother and me. PH “Spence” Spencer was born April 30, 1897 and died, at age 97, January 16, 1995 in Torrance, CA.
Mom and I were Historian members of OX-5 as we were not qualified under the then requirements of having flown or worked on an OX-5 powered aircraft prior to 1940. Now, with most of the qualified members having Gone West, everyone is classified with the same membership. They are a great bunch of folks. http://ox5.org. I was the president of the Arizona Chapter for a decade along with having co-founded the Silver Wings of Arizona Chapter with the late-great Barry M. Goldwater, RIP! In Arizona, if the OX-5ers met, the Silver Wingers met too. T’gether, but only in Arizona! I was simply too lazy to hold separate meetings. It seemingly worked great that way as both groups had much in common.
In October 1989 Spence was the keynote speaker of the OX-5 National Convention. He bequeathed me his hand written speech. I will share it with you:
“Greetings to all Early Birds and Early Birds associates and OX-5ers. Especially to those fortunate enough to be here tonight.
I have been asked to tell about my early flying experiences; so I will start with my first flight. What I am going to tell you is fully documented by notarized affidavits concerning my initial flights in my glider.
My first solo was on April 2, 1911 and my friend, Pic, would not arrive on scene for a few more months! I was thirteen years old. I flew a Whitteman Type Glider I had built from plans in Popular Mechanics Magazine. It was a bi-plane with wings 4X4X24 with bamboo wing spars and tail booms. Covering was ordinary cotton cloth shrunk with a cornstarch solution. I made this myself at home on Blue Hills Avenue in Hartford Phil I was going to Grammar School. My school-mates helped me carry it to Look Out Hill in Keeney Park on two or three occasions.
I suffered many bruises and skinned knees and elbows since I was unable to run fast enough, with the wings on my back, after landing. Thus, I learned, real quick, that shifting weight for control was not the way to fly; so I went to Stage 2!
This was a much stronger glider built of spruce and had a pair of floats made of oval stove pipe with soldered joints and internal reinforcement. I fitted it with a Curtiss-Type Shoulder Yoke Control system (3 axis).
My brother towed me behind my father’s boat at about 10 MPH using 300 feet of manila rope. With a 5 to 10 MPH wind I could get airborne but only land and take off. I could not make turns since the crag of the glider was great, and the rope so tight, that the glider followed the boat. I made many flights and felt very comfortable with the Curtiss Controls. All flights were on the Connecticut River in Hartford. This was in 1913 when I was between 15 and 16 years old.
My first powered flight was in a Curtiss Type Flying Boat, May 15, 1914. I was 17 years old. This machine was made in Connecticut and had crashed on it’s first flight when the controls pulled out of the floor since they were fastened with short wood screws. The pilot managed to set it down on the water with relatively little damage. The pilot removed his engine and abandoned the plane on a sand bar.
I got my father to buy the plane and, also, another engine, a 4 cylinder – 2 cycle with 50 HP. I repaired the damage, installed the engine, BOLTED IN the controls and was ready for my first Powered Flight.
I told by buddies to go across the river at the foot of State Street in Hartford and I would taxi the plane over to a sand bar where I intended to keep it. As I moved out into the river I was anxious to see if it would get up on the step and plane. It did that so nicely that I added more power and I was airborne! Since I had made so many take-offs in my towed glider I was at ease, but now that I am flying down the river and I didn’t know how to turn around to get back home. I flew about 5 miles down the river to Wethersfield, landed and turned around on the water. Then I took off headed back to Hartford.
As I approached the city, The Hartford to New York Night Boat had just left the dock; so I gave it a buzz job! The deck was alive with about 400 people all waving everything they could get their hands on. That was a sight and thrill I will never forget.
This was really the beginning of my aviation career for I designed and built nine airplanes in 12 years. The one built in 1919 is now in the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks, CT.
Memorable high lights of my career includes a tour flying a Ford Tri-Motor for the Shell Oil Company and my log book show that I carried twelve thousand passengers in one year!” Later I served as personal pilot for Juan Trippe, founder and president of Pan Am. Many of you are familiar with the Spencer Amphibian Air Car which is in production today for the homebuilder.
On my 80th birthday I made my first flight on a twin-pontoon bi-plane glider towed by a high powered ski boat. I designed it for a company interested in producing it commercially. Thus my life has been full circle referring back to my towed flight behind my father’s boat in 1913.
In addition to conventional aircraft I developed an ornithoper – which is a machine propelled by beating wings. WHAMO of Hula-Hoop & Frisbee Fame built 650,000 of these rubbered powered birds. I continued the development using model airplane gas engines and an 8 ft model with 4/5 HP is in the Smithsonian as the World’s First! These towns instilled the desire to build a man carrying ornithopter. So, I designed – built and flew an 8 ft. scaled model with radios control which is in the EAA museum along with a video of its flights. At a CAL TEC symposium on beating wing propulsion, it was the consensus that if a man carrying ornithopter was successful, my design would be the one to succeed.
I have complete drawings for this machine including the test equipment. At my age and financial status I am unable to construct it but I would be very happy to work with anyone who would be interested in building such a machine.”
PH Spencer would live another six years. He actually kept his FAA certification current and flew until he was NINETY! Just writing this piece, largely his own telling, has been inspirational.