“Worse than not realizing the dreams of your youth would be to have been young and never dreamed at all.” Jean Genet
This is a continuation of a previous post. Enjoy!
“The day arrived and on September 14, 1969, Daddy became a certified private pilot. He logged 1114.45 hours of flying time over the span of 19 years and one month, almost to the day. His first lesson was at the Phillipsburg, KS airport in a J-3 Cub on October 14, 1962 and his last logged flight was from the Plainville airpark on September 21, 1981. Most of the hours flown were in Aircoupe N3052G. In high school, I was a frequent flyer passengers.
The coupe became Daddy’s transport, companion and therapy; his place to dream and escape. It would be years before I understood the relationship he had with that little plane. The coupe remained at the Plainville Airpark until 1991.
In the late 1960s and into the early 70s, in addition to running his auto parts business, Dad became involved in local government, both as councilman and later as mayor. So as time progressed, the coupe’s time in the air began to dwindle. In the mid to late 70s, economic downturns and health issues, infringed further on Daddy’s ability to spend time in the air. There were rumors that Dad had offers to sell the plane, but he needed to keep her close, even if she had to sit quietly on the ground looking south from her open hangar.
Activity at the airpark came and went. The one major issue: water. The field was well drained and a perfectly fine grass strip but rain, snow, ice and other kinds of moisture hampered consistant use. In fact, there were no all weather airports in all of Rooks County. In 1978 he and several others began to work on a plan to correct this. The vision was modest: simply black top the airpark runway. Plans and proposals were made with rationale far beyond just a few guys with a hobby. As mayor, he could see it as an extension of main street for business, as well as providing access to medical flights, and other emergency needs. Perceptions, costs, and local politics got in the way and plans ended up on the shelf. The time was not yet.
In the meantime, I had left home, married and began a career with the FAA as an air traffic controller. When that career brought me to Wichita, KS in 1988, I decided to finally get my private pilot’s license. I had wanted to do this since I first flew with Daddy, and had even begun training at one point, but the right time had finally arrived.
In a phone conversation with Dad, I asked if the Coupe was flyable. His answer was evasive: “it was flying when I last parked her in the hangar”. I asked how long it had been. “A couple of years”. I asked if I could use it to build the hours I needed to get my license, his response after thinking it over, was “if you can fix it, you can fly it”. I had no idea what was involved. I later discovered it had been 11 years since her last airworthiness check. It was going to be work.
My flight instructor and I flew his plane to Plainville to assess the situation in the fall of 1991. She was in sad shape. It took two more trips with different assortments of mechanics before, on a cold March day in 1992 she departed Plainville Airpark on a ferry permit for her new home in Wichita.
In the meantime, I had continued my flight training and realized the Coupe would not be the plane I would build my flight hours in. The plan had shifted. Daddy was ready to share her with me, and so we took joint ownership. When I was not supervising a shift at the Wichita air traffic tower/TRACON or working on some aspect of my pilot training, I was assisting the team of mechanics bringing N3052G back to an airworthy condition.”
I know, this was more about an airplane than an airport, but one exists for the other! The final installment of this airport story and vision next time.