The Airplanes I have owned
(and some flying stories)
(revised 4/27/04: add Slick 50)
(revised 9/30/05: add new counter)
(revised 1/20/06: new host)
Note: (After clicking on the thumbnail, you can supersize the picture a second time.)
1. N84131. After getting my pilots licence, I rented planes from Howard Riley's school for a while, but the bug to own my very own airplane had severely bitten me. The same bug kept on biting me for the next 40 years. My budget would allow an expenditure of $800, and for that I could get either an Aeronca or a Piper Cub. I went for the Aeronca, and on 6/24/55 I had my first airplane. The 1947 7AC was only 8 years old but it had led a rough life. I had 3 forced landings with it. I sold it on 11/19/55, but in the five months I owned it, I flew it some 80 hours. All flight time in those days was kept by the wristwatch, timed from takeoff until shutdown.
Notice on the last picture the view of the old short runway at El Monte terminating at Van Duzen's dairy.
2. N2272K. After selling the 7AC it wasn’t too long before the bug bit me again. My second airplane to buy was a very nice 47’ Luscombe 8E OPT . Where the 7AC did not have an electrical system, the Luscombe was a very upscale craft. Besides having an electrical system, it had a radio that had 5 channels of VHF for transmitting, and the usual Low Frequency for receiving. It also had a directional gyro mounted under the instrument panel, and a single 75 Mhz fan marker light. That was a lot more than any other plane had that I had rented. I bought the Luscombe for $1,750 on May 18th 1956. I kept the airplane until October 5th, when I sold it to a Robert Newby in Paso Robles for $2,125. The profit of almost $400 covered all of the flying expenses for the 4 ½ months and 80 hours of flying that I owned it.
Being the intrepid bookkeeper that I have been, I can now state that my total flying time to this point is $4.62 per hour, and that includes the approximate $400 spent for getting the private licence. Jumping ahead to 57', my total flying hours of 330 averaged out at $2.90 per hour.
3. N48749. After selling the Luscombe I was without an airplane, and the hunger pangs were again eating away at me. 30 days without an airplane and I was suffering. After searching around for an aerobatic plane, I found the exact right one! A 1943 Ryan STK-3R, or PT-22 as it was designated by the military. I bought it right at El Monte airport on 11/31/56 for only $1150 bucks; and that included several extra “spinner props” and a “climb” prop plus several boxes of “goodies” like leather helmets, spare engine parts, all sorts or things. This airplane was still sporting its original covering of linen fabric, but the original windshields were replaced with specially made one piece curved ones.
. On March 23rd, 1957, with the total flight time of 262 hours, I applied for and took my Commercial check ride with good old Howard T. Riley, and in the PT. No navigation, no radio, no precheck instruction, just precision spins and aerobatics. I’ll never forget us taxing out toward the old hay barns of the Van Duzen dairy, and Howard asking me how much I had paid for the PT. “$1150 bucks” I replied. The high-pitched Irish laugh that came back through the gosport is one that I’ll never forget: “$1150 bucks! Boy did they ever see you coming! You can buy these all over town for $350!” Howard T. Riley C39814 (how about that for a low number!).
I continued to fly the PT (with a for sale sign on it) until April 16th, 1957. when I sold it to Robert Paterson for the sum of $1,800 bucks. I had owned it for about 4 ½ months and flown it about 35 very hard hours, and made a very good profit; the flying business was definitely going my way! 35 hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but each flight was of about one hour or less and involved some very heavy-duty aerobatics.
It is interesting to realize that to be an instructor in those days, that no radio or instrument knowledge had to be demonstrated; just precision in flying: precision turns, precision spins, good crosswind landing techniques. The emphasis was on “flying the airplane”. That emphasis stayed with me all of my career, however the demands for instrument capability and radio navigation were added to the curriculum for an instructor, while keeping the total required flight hours the same. Thus we have seen too much evidence of worldly instructors full of technical knowledge, but with minimal flying ability. Even spins are no longer a part of the curriculum. This is a mistake in my opinion.
3. N813N. This was a very straight Howard DGA-15P, however the owner had crossed the border without stopping at customs. Justice was swift and within 30 days it was up for auction at Rosemead airport. I left $1,200 bucks in the care of my friend Albert Takahasi to bid on it for me, as I was off for two weeks with the National Guard. There were only two bidders, Al and another guy from El Monte. To keep things simple, they decided on a partnership, and the airplane was purchased for $1,200. When I came back from summer camp, I found the airplane had already been ground looped by the other pilot who didn't bother to get a check out. He landed with the tailwheel unlocked and lost it. I sold my share to the other guy for $685; a tremendous profit! The only picture I had of it has been lost. I knew the original owner very well and he appeared in my life several times later. He was later portrayed by Charles Bronson as the man who flew the secret agent out of Mexico City prison in a helicopter. I asked him one time whether losing the airplane bothered him, and he replied that it didn't, as the price of the airplane was paid for in one load.
4. N91909 It was less than 4 months later when that same bug bit me again. On 8/6/57 I bought a very nice 1948 Piper PA-14 (Super Cruiser) for $1,800. This was the very first aircraft rebuilt by the famous duo Glen Nickerman and Harvey Kellerburger (of G&H aircraft fame).
I show about 130 hours logged in this airplane from 8/57 until mid 58’. The last individual entry is on 1/1/58, New Years day. I took my sister Kathy on a flight over the Pasadena Rose Parade. Only one entry after that shows an estimate for 1/1/58 until 6/30/58 of 50 hours. Something or some event had caused me to change my normal habit of logging each flight, and making a notation of the event.
5. N69165. I took some time off to get married, buy a house, sire some kids, and try the married scene, but eventually the bug bit me again.
This time it was another "PT". On April 30th, 1963 I bought a Fairchild PT-26 for $695. It had been converted to having the "round" Continental 220 Hp engine in place of the rather unreliable Ranger inverted engine. The Navy had bought some of these for trainers and removed the greenhouse cockpit glass to make an open cockpit airplane with the radial engine, and dubbed it a PT-23. So this airplane was rather a hybrid of sorts. But for $695 I was back in the saddle again. It took a while to get the plane ready for a licence, but I kept it for almost a year.
On March 1st, 1964 I sold the airplane to Stan McGrew from Las Vegas. Actually Stan was a pilot in the Air Force. He originally wanted to trade me his Fairchild F24 for it, but I very smartly (?) declined, and took cash instead; the sale price of $1,300 represented a very major profit! That profit of almost $500 was about 1/3rd the cost of a new car! The Fairchild F24 today is a much-desired classic, but back then, it didn’t compare to a newer airplane in performance and had not reached it "Classic" status.
The total time logged on that airplane is less than 60 hours over a 9 month period, but if a Hobb’s meter was used, the time would have been easily doubled or more. In those times we just looked (maybe) at our wristwatch on take off and landing, and that would be the time logged. All day trips of very exciting nature would only be 2 to 3 hours at the maximum.
6. N874D. From 3/1/64 until 2/5/65 I kept myself busy flying other peoples airplanes. Because of my venture with the PT-26, several of my buddies bought them also, so I was the "main dude" to instruct in them. But the "bug" was getting to me again, and this time I bought a 1948 Stinson Wagon 108-3, for $1,600 at Thermal airport. Again, it was out of licence, and required a ferry permit to get it back to Brackett. I kept it until September 65' and logged 68 hours in it until a new thought took over: I was going to get my Instrument rating, and what's more, get the Instrument Instructor add-on.
7. N4390U. I had spent almost two years instructing and flying in O.P's (other people's airplanes) when the bug bit again. On 6/24/66 (eleven years to the day from the purchase of my first airplane) I bought a 1964 Cessna 150 for $5,000. With that airplane, I started a flight school called the Arcadia Flyers Club. I instructed in that airplane for three years before selling my small FBO. In one year alone I compiled 1500 hours of instructing.
8. N5008D. My flight school was growing rapidly, so I bought a 1958 Cessna 182 to add to the fleet (I was also leasing several other trainers). It was out of licence and had one low cylinder, but the $6,000 asking price was a bargain. I later on sold it to one of my students for $8,000, and then eventually went to work for the student and became company pilot flying my old airplane. The first two pictures show the airplane at Monache Meadows (8,000' elev.) with the original paint job. The last two pictures show the airplane after it was sold and repainted.
9. N6426A This was a lesson in learning when to fold your hand and take the loss. I had been selling and ferrying airplanes to various dealers when an unusual event took place. A dealer in Montana (a friend I trusted) asked me to find a Cessna 182 for him. I found a bargain, but the deal was the seller was going to divorce court the next day, and the sale had to be before that. The dealer told me to pay for the airplane and he would pay me when I delivered it. I had made some other deals with this person, and felt comfortable in working this way. It was a 1956 Cessna 182, and I got it for my standard price of $6,000. I would get expenses plus upon delivery. The airplane was out of licence and I had to get a ferry permit to bring it to El Monte. One of the main problems was that the gas gauges were broken. I got another ferry permit to fly it to Montana and took off at 3AM on July 17th, 1968. I did my usual fuel management of one hour on the left tank, then one hour on the right tank, and then burn the left dry. Thus I would have whatever time it took to burn the left dry, remaining on the right tank. Unfortunately this did not work out for unknown reasons. Did someone steal fuel after I topped the tanks at 10PM and before I departed at 3AM? Or was the economizer valve in the carburetor installed backwards? Whatever, I should have listened when my co-pilot (my 6-year old son) wanted to go potty when we were over Vegas. I had a complete engine shutdown 5 miles short of the Delta Utah airport in a place called Mud Lake, a part of Lake Severe! They told me that I was the only one who had crashed there and survived.
A nice Mormon farmer came by and offered me $2,800 for it as it sat, and I foolishly declined. I came back, recovered the airplane, and spent a year in rebuilding it. I did all of the painting myself. It was a beautiful performing airplane and I loved flying it, but I still had the other C182.
I tried to sell it but I was right on the peak of the beginning of the recession. I would be asking $12,000 and get an offer for $11,000 and turn it down. This went on to where I would come back to the buyer and offer $9,000 and get no taker. I eventually sold it to a dealer for $6,000 who flew it for two years before selling it to a student in Reno. The student then flew it for another year, and after 3 annual inspections since I had sold it, two cylinders were found to be bad. The student sued me and the dealer for the price of a new engine (only $13,000 then). I found out what a nuisance law suit was very quickly. We settled for $4,000! Bear in mind that a new airplane usually only has a 50 hour warranty. This one had been flown some 350 hours, but anyone can sue anyone for anything in California! As you can see, I would have been better off by taking the $2,800 initially and taking my loss (oh, my "friend" reneged on using his insurance to cover the loss).
10. N2914T. In 1974 I bought a beautiful Aerocommander 200D from my friend Walt Podolece for $16,000. This was the most fantastic machine I had ever flown. It had been built by North American Aviation as their entry into the civilian market. Unfortunately it cost them more to build it than it was selling for. I kept it for a while, but I found it was so fast I had nowhere to go. I could leave El Monte and head for Santa Barbara, fly the coast down to San Clemente and return to El Monte in one hour, leaving nothing else to do for the rest of the day.
11. N1070B. As soon as I sold the 200D, I bought a Mooney Mk20A. The gasoline shortage of 75' pushed the price of AV-fuel to new heights, so the Mooney was the most fuel efficient airplane available. I called it a flying Volkswagen.
12. N61986 In 1976 I finally bit the bullet and bought my first Stearman. After a great deal of searching I found a stock two-holer for $10,000. The owner was an IA, and he told me he would sign it off for a new annual, but that it would require new cover by the next annual inspection. Buying this airplane was the start of an entire new life for me in many directions. This airplane had a magic aura about it. I got into the banner tow business because of this airplane, and from there everything else about my life changed. The aircraft had been used by a crop duster school and was pretty beat up, but it flew like a dream. The paint detail was unusual, so after repaint the same scheme was kept. The Stearman is a beautiful object viewed from any angle. The airplane was used in dozens of TV commercials and movies (The In Laws).
A modified propeller failed, and after 6 years of unequalled pleasure, the aircraft was damaged and old. The remains went for $10,000 and the insurance paid $13,000. It now resides in pristine condition in Australia. The tan and bald fellow is myself at the accident scene.
13. N4866N. After one season of banner towing for Rod Worthington, I bought the business and with it came a converted duster Stearman with a 450Hp engine. I paid $18,000 for the business and some years later sold the Stearman for $18,000. The airplane was used in movies and TV commercials by Frank Tallman and Art Scholl. The Amelia Airhart story is one to see it in. I had it painted identical to the 220hp Stearman.
Mike Dewey flew it when Dar Robinson became the first person to jump from one airplane to another.
14. N????? I bought a 1950 Cessna 170A which was to double as a banner tow airplane and a cruiser. I flew it for a year, however when my business was placed in a receivership during a divorce and I was forced to sell the airplane in parts to get cash for the business. I traded the airframe less engine and instruments for a 1929 Ford pickup truck.
15. N1926P. With the crash of the 220 Stearman, the sale of the 450 Stearman, and the demise of the Cessna, I was needing to find a cheap, readily replaceable, easy to fly banner tow airplane. I was using leased aircraft to fill in my work in the meantime. On 1/2/82 I tried the old "milkstool", a 1955 Piper PA-22 Tripacer, and was surprised to see how well it worked as a tow plane. I outfitted it with compressed air horns, smoke system, and a loud speaker system to play music. It became SKYAD #1. Initial price: $6,000. It accumulated some 1500 hours of flight time and earned an estimated $400,000 gross income. It was kept until 1992 when it was parted out and sold in pieces for around $30,000. Many airline captains of today got their first commercial job flying in it.
16. N2606P. With the surprising success of #1, I promptly located another 1955 Tripacer and on 3/7/82, two months after getting #1, I purchased the 2nd of my new fleet for my standard price of $6,000. This aircraft had less than 1000 total hours since new, and the engine had 130 hours SMOH. This one bore the number "#2" on the cowl. Unlike #1 where all unnecessary weight was removed, #2 was kept as a four place airplane. It was outfitted with the avionics and instruments removed from the scrapped Cessna 170. It was certificated as meeting all IFR requirements, and both of my sons got their private licence in it. It also accumulated around 1500 hours of flight time. It was parted out in 1992 along with #1 and sold in pieces for around $30,000. Picture shown here is the Flying M ranch in Yamhill Oregon. The Tripacers turned out to be good short field airplanes also. Landing here at Lake Wohlford.
17. N7744D. This was a very clean 1957 Tripacer, again purchased for my standard price of $6,000. It had a total banner towing time of about 1,000 hours. At $225/per hour gross, less $20/hour for the pilot and $20/hour for fuel, The Tripacer netted (before other expenses) $185/ per hour. So it could be said that the airplane earned $185,000 in a few short years. This was the airplane I was going to keep, but an experimental airplane ground looped into it, and it was sold to the Insurance company for $16,000.
18. N6412Z This was a Piper Pawnee PA-25 that I bought from my friend Dan Brennan on 7/3/83 for my usual price of $6,000. I now had 4 banner tow airplanes paid for by the income received from the crash of the Stearman. This one became #4 in the fleet. While the Stearman had all of the charisma, it took a skilled pilot to handle it, and it was big. The Tripacers and the Pawnee allowed me to use low time pilots for my crew. The Pawnee required a pilot with sufficient tailwheel time, but it was a very docile handling airplane. Upon the closing of Meadowlark Airport, it was sold for $14,500.
19. N9640S In 1984 I bought this nice little Champion 7GCBC from my friend Rod Worthington for $8,500. It flew as #5 in the fleet for 5 years until it had to be sold. A fellow called out of the blue and surprised me by asking what I had for sale. I had not yet set a price on this airplane but came out with $14,500. He bought it sight unseen.
20. N5212G There were two main "dream" airplanes I wanted. The Stearman was one, and the other was the Cessna 305, or L19 during it's service in the military. This one came from the CAP and was purchased for $20,000 on 2/3/85. It was commissioned in 1950 with the Army. It was my strongest tug and was used mainly for towing the 32' long COORS beer can. I was the recipient of 4 annual contracts of $60,000 each from COORS. It stayed with me until late 1993 when I transferred it to my friend Bob Goubitz for $40,000. 1100 hours were logged in it.
21. N7546F Fleet #7 was 1970 Champion 7KCAB. I purchased this on 5/17/87 for $8,500 from fellow advertising competitor, Jim Brough. On the morning of 6/9/88 I was checking out one of my pilots for tailwheel competancy when he pulled the idiotic stunt of slamming the airplane in from 5' while making wheel landing. He had read a book the night before wherein the author recommended "planting it". The G meter had 9 G's on it. I totally rebuilt the airplane and sold it for $16,500. It only flew 140 work hours.
22. N2256P This was a well worn 1955 Piper Apache PA-23 that I bought from Jim Minear for $15,000. It was sweet running and Jim and I had just completed a extensive trip around Baja in it. I decided to wash the engines before flying it and found one broken engine bolt which magnified into a complete engine overhaul. Upon moving the airplane to install the new engine, the gear collapsed, not once but twice. It was a dead bird. I think it finally parted out for around $30,000, but it took 10 years to get rid of all of the parts. Jim said it looked like I had been "snake bit".
23. N101WR. In late 1982 my friend Walt Podolece gave me a Helicopter and Fixed wing flight school at Long Beach (LGB). Besides the $12,000 in the bank account, it came with a Robinson R22 helicopter. This was a year spent every day working two businesses, but fun. I could commute from Meadowlark to LGB in the "Robbie". It was like living two separate lives. I had at my disposal a Bell 206L-1 LongRanger, 5 Robbies, and a small fleet of fixed wing aircraft on lease. I had to move the operation at a time when the Olympics were in L.A. and lost my lease. The Robbie was sold to a buyer in Australia for $23,000. 101WR, Serial # 3, was the first production unit of this series of helicopters for Robinson Corp.
23. N8332N. In 1982 I bought into a partnership on a very nice Beechcraft Bonanza V35A. I believe the year model was either 68' or 69', but it was a real flying machine. It was about as fast as the 200D and had full instrumentation. My partner was the commanding General of the El Toro Marine base, Hal Vincent. I had so many airplanes to fly that although this was a very special airplane (today's value around $200K), I decided to sell my share.
24. An early model Bonanza. One day as I was leaving the airport I met Jim Minear coming in. As we sat in each of our cars facing each other, we talked and he told me he had just bought a Bonanza for $3,000. This is obviously another "Minear" story because Bonanzas sell for 10X that amount. But I bit on it. Jim offers to sell it to me for $5,000, but it has to be cash today. This is an impossible coincidence because I am on my way to Flabob to buy a Cessna 150/150 with $7,000 cash in my pocket . Jim cons me into going to Palomar airport to see the Bonanza. Sure enough it is there as he said, although it is an early model, and we go to someone on the airport who is supposedly an attorney handling the sale. I give Jim $5,000 for the Bonanza; he gives the attorney $3,000. As it turns out I have to spend about $5,000 more to get it licenced, and that is with a suspicious title. And Jim never did really own it. When all was said and done, it was a reasonable flying machine, but with no autopilot, which makes a Bonanza a 100% of the time hands-on flying machine.
25. N4171P. This was a very nice 1959 Piper Apache PA-23. I had been searching the Trade-a-Plane publication for a twin and found this one where the owner would take a trade. We met in Arizona on 11/8/87 and traded straight across even, Bonanza for the Apache. I sold the Apache on 6/20/89 to Brennan Fallon who as of 2003 still owned the airplane. The sale price was $19,500. This represented a $7,500 profit over the investment in the Bonanza.
A very interesting and detailed site depicting old airports in the SoCal area can be found at Paul Freeman's "Abandoned and little known Airfields" at:
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