Monday, January 6, 2014

So then I pulled the wings off her ... (Part II)

Last week, I started the story of how I decided to search out the two-seater airplane my grandfather owned up until the late 90s. If you missed it, click here first, as today’s post will make a lot more sense after you read part one.


So, there I was, punching her tail number into good old Google (deciding to ignore for the moment the haranguing I had received over the holidays from a couple of family members who intensely dislike the company and took good-natured umbrage at me using ‘to Google’ as synonymous for searching the internet). And when the results popped up, I stopped. I stared. Because I didn’t just get a couple of hits on Grampie’s old plane. I got pages of them.

Me: OMG. What has the old girl been up to?
Computer: Click on a link and let’s find out!

I picked one at random, and found myself diving into the archive of a vintage airplane club’s monthly publication, circa 2002. And what do you know? It turned out that the man Grampie sold the old Luscombe to, Butch, was the president of the club, and had written an introductory note to the magazine each month, many of them talking about the flying he was doing with his own vintage airplanes.

Charmed, I went back to 1998, when Grampie had sold his plane, and picked up her story, reading her new owner’s newsletter articles in order. I saw my Grampie through Butch’s eyes. He wrote about having always wanted a Luscombe Silvaire, and how, after the deal was done, my Grampie would show up at his hangar at random intervals with this, that, or the other spare plane part he had found while cleaning up his garage.

He didn’t mention the Luscombe in every issue, but the little snippets drew me along the years as his picture aged in the masthead. I read about how she had shown up a bigger, slower airplane coming into a tiny country airstrip, and then sipped nine dollars of gas to the behemoth’s double or triple digits; and how he and his wife had briefly lived in an apartment over their hangar while they were between houses, and had hung laundry from her wings.

After a decade or so, a new president took over the organization and there weren’t any more articles that mentioned his name together with the old Luscombe’s tail number. Except for one.

His obituary from the end of 2012, written by the members of the vintage airplane club. He had died of a brain tumor, leaving behind a whole lot of friends, family and fliers to mourn.

It was strange how much shock I felt at seeing it, how much sadness for someone I had never met. How much it meant to see the Luscombe mentioned in his epitaph, which talked about his love for flying, and how she was the last plane he worked on, collaborating with his nephew to rebuild her instrument panel. And how much I felt his friends’ sadness at his passing. I sat there, taking a long moment of silence for a stranger whose life had come near mine but never really intersected. Then, not sure what I would find next, I kept clicking. And I found it.

Sold, January 2013.  

The website even had her new owner’s name and mailing address. And so, hoping this wasn’t the end of the adventure, I sat down and wrote a letter, introducing myself and asking whether he would be willing to talk to me about his new plane.

And then …

To be continued.


  1. What the heck Jess?!?!?! Now I think you are just doing this to rile up the masses and annoy the heck out of me. :P In fact! I bet you made the 'Enter' key a big red button just so you can practice your evil world domination plots where you hit the button to end the world unless you get 'one meeeeeeellion dollars.' *insert your maniacal laugh here*
    Damn you and your hairless cat!

  2. Now that I'm accustomed to your "keep 'em hooked" suspensy, tricksy ways applied to blogging, the break at the end didn't surprise me that much. :) ;)

    Anyway, what an incredible experience - to meet this man via your grandfather's old plane. You know ... you could expand and turn this into a memoir tracking our lives but the durable goods we owned. Very universal appeal. Flying and exploration and community metaphors ... your "Under the Tuscan Sun."