Plains Airways WWII CPTP

Plains Airways WWII CPTP
Plains Airways WWII CPTP

N80201 was the first twin to land at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Pic Walker is at left. Frances Walker stands 7th from the right between Mr. & Mrs. Al Litzenberger.

Arv Schultz – Editor’s View

Civilian Pilot Training in Rarified Air

by Arv Schultz,

In June, 2013 the QB Beam explored the origins of the World War II Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP), a government- sponsored program that exceeded all expectations by successfully training 435,165 pilots for the U.S. and our allies. Arizona was a major but not the only player in that success. A number of states were involved as well. One such FBO flight training center was Plains Airways, Inc., operated by Billy Walker’s father, W. Dillard “Pic” Walker. Unlike training facilities in the southwest deserts, Walker’s was located in the “Magic City of the Plains,” Cheyenne, Wyoming (6,156 ft. MSL).

Pic Walker at the controls of the Cessna UC-78 “Bobcat”

A family affair

Plains Airways, Inc.

by Billy Walker

In 1937, Plains Airways began as a pilot training school in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Later, two World War II training bases were added at Laramie, Wyoming and Fort Morgan, Colorado. Cheyenne, was the main base of operations.

In the late 20’s my father attended Colorado Aggies in Ft. Collins. Now, the university is Colorado State University and Pic’s great-grandson will attend there on a football scholarship the fall of 2020.

When Pic was there he majored in engineering and was in ROTC. Below: Pic is the taller of the two. I have no memory of the name of the fellow to Pic’s right.

1938 Honeymoon Flight – 40 HP Taylorcraft
Walker girls, MJ & MM & 1947 Studebaker

In the late 1930’s my father ran a fixed-base flight operation in Cheyenne. This began serendipitously as he and a brother had been in the produce business. My grandfather was operating a farm east of Greeley, Colorado. “Pic,” as everyone called my father, would drive a tractor-trailer to granddad’s farm and haul a load of vegetables to Cheyenne. Then he would sell them to the Army’s Fort D. A. Russell and the locals. Fort D.A. Russell later became Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, still in operation today.

My father enjoyed aviation and felt he was on the ground floor of promoting and making a business of flying. My mother never had a burning desire to learn to fly but did, however, and became the first female to learn to fly in Wyoming.

Pic once had a marketing idea involving my mother. He put up a large billboard near the city arrival points. The billboard had a photo of my mom with a statement that read “IF SHE CAN FLY – YOU CAN FLY!” I would imagine would be inflated and indignant over that simple statement.

Sometime in 1941 she became too large with me to clamber aboard the little Luscombe Model 8A. That I was the one who curtailed her aviation activity, albeit she still flew with my father a lot, troubles me. September 30, 1941 Mom was in the back of the Model 18 Twin Beech. It was just a short flight from Denver to Cheyenne when she went into labor with me. Happily for her they made it to the hospital. Sadly for me, I wasn’t born in the airplane. Boy Howdy! …that would have given me some serious braggin’ rights!

Above – N-80201 with the Tetons as a backdrop…

Below – Clyde Ice’s Ford AT – My Mom’s first flight – she paid 5¢/pound! Clyde was legendary – he lived to be 103!

Plains Airways Instructor wings and Cadet wings
Colorado’s Senator Johnson with Captain David “Boom Boom” Cannon
Cheyenne 1942…
Plains Chief Pilot, Billy Spear doin’ some ‘splainin’ to a Waco UPF-7 student. Cheyenne 1941. Billy became chief pilot for Western Airlines in Denver. A great fellow!

Instructor Chesley Harris with Plains Cessna UC-78 “Bamboo Bomber”
Instructor Clyde Bonham working with mechanic cadets 1942.
Clyde became Aspen Airways Chief Pilot. He was killed in the crash of an Aero Commandeer north of Denver in the late 60’s.
Ray Johnson teaching navigation – Pic Walker far left then Nelson Rotes, Billy Spear, Earl Scotter & Ray Johson standing.
Plains Airways 1943
Plains Airways Lunch Room WWII Cheyenne, Wyoming
Plains Airways poker night – WWII Cheyenne, Wyoming
Waco UPF-7 (NC-32047) ground loop – no injuries except embarrassing the pilot.
The mechanical cadets were delighted!
Plains Airways suffered no serious accidents.
One Luscombe 8A was destroyed in an emergency landing when encountering a dust devil! The cadet suffered a bandaid cut on his nose!
Yup! …just a scratch! He walked right out the front of what was left!

Below: Plains Airways Summer 1941