Family friend Miles Vernon was a passionate pilot who flew an outrageous 1927 Waco biplane. "There are two kinds of pilots," Miles said. "Good pilots and dead pilots."
Miles was a damn good pilot.
What triggered this column was the story of Hawaiian Airlines' very first plane—the 86-year-old, single-engine, 1929 Bellanca Pacemaker. It is beloved and still in service.
That same week actor Harrison Ford wrecked his Ryan PT-22 Recruit—a 1940s classic Army Air Corps training plane. Apparently the engine failed on takeoff and Ford adroitly managed a crash landing on the golf course adjoining the runway. He was the only casualty—banged up, but mercifully okay.
The Piper Cub Sweepstakes Prize
All of these ancient planes reminded me of a story told me by Aviation Consumer's great copywriter Donn Smith.
Many years ago, Smith's newsletter ran a sweepstakes. The grand prize was an original bright yellow J-3 antique Piper Cub, circa late 1930—the most famous light airplane of all time.
The winner was a 17-year-old kid.
As I recall, Belvoir Publications' founder Robert Englander called the parents with some good news and bad news.
The good news: Their son won the plane.
The bad news: The lad did not have a pilot's license and the cost of insurance would have sent the family to the poor house.
Belvoir kept the plane and gave the kid $10,000.
Takeaway to Consider
- The kid was happy with all that cash.
- Always do right by your customers.
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