Just one pilot's attempt at taking an interesting picture every trip, often with a story to go with it. Come along for the ride.

For more recent posts, go to my site www.kentwien.com

Monday, April 14, 2008

R.I.P. Luscombe N71808 1946-2008

When I was 19 years old during my sophomore year at Washington State University, I was in a quandary. I had been building flight time by sharing rental expenses with friends and even strangers by putting up flyers all over the school offering "night flights over Pullman--$5." I would rent the 172 and split the costs 4-ways, making the ride just $5. I had 170 passengers by the time I realized that my insurance company wouldn't cover this 'operation.' So I came up with the idea of borrowing some money and buying a vintage two-seater to fly around Pullman while I went to school. I needed to get from the 90 hour point to about 215 hours so I could start working on my commercial, multi, and instrument ratings, followed by my CFI.

My dad did not want me to fly while at school. He thought I should only concentrate on getting my degree and nothing else. His fear was that I would find a flying job before finishing up, which was a well founded concern, it turned out. So I borrowed $3000 from my boss at a hobby shop and $2500 from my grandparents to pay for the $5500 airplane. So while in school, I had a bicycle that I borrowed from my sister and an airplane. I figured I could get a ride to the airport from my passengers.

A few days later, I found a Luscombe that was in fair shape. I rented a 152 and flew my brother down to Baker, Oregon to buy it. Kurt flew the Luscombe back and we arrived in Pullman with a 35 knot crosswind. Since we had no radio communication between us, I had him follow me to a grass strip that was more into the wind where he could land. I then went on to Pullman and landed the 152, which handled the crosswind much better than the Luscombe would have.

I went on to fly that Luscombe for hundreds of hours. I landed on top of a hill north of Pullman, I gave rides to my girlfriend, friends and strangers. I even took my mom up in the airplane and realized that she wasn't exactly comfortable with the experience of her youngest kid flying her in a 40 year old antique.

I flew it down to the San Francisco area in California for the 1989 Luscombe fly-in. I was the first of 110 Luscombes to show up. I had a blast flying in formation with a cub and 6 other Luscombes throughout the event. I won the youngest participant award and the "hard luck story" award because of my experience getting to the event--a story that I wrote about here.

I slapped a "Wien Air Alaska" sticker on the side of the airplane, simply because I couldn't think of where else to put it.

I had to sell the Luscombe to my brother 5 years after I bought it just to pay off some of what I owed him for the flight training and fuel he provided me. I should have taken out a loan to keep the airplane.

So where is that little airplane now?

My dad was having dinner last week with a friend who mentioned he was looking for a Luscombe. The next day, the gentleman found a project advertised and noticed it had a Wien sign on the side. So he called my dad and asked him if he or the airline ever had a Luscombe (don't laugh, Wien had a J-3 Cub and a Cessna 140 at one point). My dad couldn't think of how a Wien sign got on a Luscombe, and it wasn't until my step-mom told him that it had to have been my old airplane that the puzzle came together.

It seems after we sold the airplane that it was flipped over on it's back. Someone else bought the airplane and stored it for the next 15 years. So when it came up for sale, the friend of my dad's went and took pictures of it. I'm glad he shared them with me, but I actually shed a tear when I saw the airplane. Here's what I'm talking about:

Note the condition of the prop. I bought that Sensenich prop brand new in '89. The thought had occurred to me to buy the basket case and someday restore the airplane. But just about everything would need to be replaced, leaving you with a $25,000 airplane that you'll have $35,000 into. Not to mention the logistics of where to keep it and how to convince the wife that we needed to buy this airplane. I'm still not ruling it out, but it's a longshot.

Someday maybe ol "Shamrock" will fly again. I hope so. Whoever buys it, let me know when you're ready to sell it. I might be ready as well.

(Update: The airplane was sold to Garwin Burroughs in Oregon, I believe. We talked last year and his plan is to restore the airplane eventually.)

Kent's 15 minutes of fame. from Kent Wien on Vimeo.


Justin said...

Such a cool story.

Roymcm said...

That's a sad sight. I sure hope somebody can get it restored.

Neil said...

Great story Kent!

Joseph S said...

Wow, is that the same plane from that news report video from way back when? That's sad to see- and that Wien logo on the side looked like it added a cool touch.

Oh, and thanks for that twitter shout-out. By the end of Airventure last year it seemed like a plane was a plane was a plane... so it'll be interesting to see what two months is like.

Kent Wien said...

Yeah Joseph, that's the same one!

I'll have to post that to YouTube sometime. It's no longer online.

Oooh, I could add it to this post in fact.

Great, that's one less hour of sleep tonight.

Good luck at Oshkosh. Hearing a Mustang start up should NEVER get boring!

Anonymous said...
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Kevin said...

Love the story. My daughter is a freshman at WSU, and we make the drive often. As a 50 year-old-wanna be pilot, I read your post with the usual "woulda, coulda, shoulda".
Love your pix on Flickr as well... keep up the great posts.

JohnMFtlauderdale said...

WOW that was a young Kent Wien. Does it make you feel old???? Well Kent, I read your stuff all the time and that just made me feel old, but you have accomplished a lot so be proud, and buy the damn airplane back!!!!

MikeH said...

Great story about the Luscombe - the Hard Luck prize was clearly well deserved. The NTSB piece is interesting. Little changes over the years...

That Luscombe must be in your future Kent...

isael said...
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Exeter, New Hampshire, United States
Grew up in Alaska, went to high school and college in Washington State. Commercial pilot since 1990.

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