A Lifetime of Flying

Little did know as a child sanding a chunk of pine that this was the beginning of a passion that would last the rest of my life.

Leland C. Clapper (Uncle Leland)

My Uncle Leland lived with us. His favorite indoor pastime was building model airplanes. And of course, whatever he was doing, I had to do, too. 

His airplane modeling skills were enough to earn prizes and eventually money. Of course, I wanted to be just like him. What I remember most was sanding. After sanding a wing for what must have been hours I was certain that it was perfect. “Uncle Leland, isn’t this great?” His reply never changed, “Keep sanding.” 

Multi Engine Instructor – The culmination of years of flying.

A few years later, Lee left us to enlist in the newly created United States Air Force. And I went on to other things that kids do. But my love of airplanes never died. As a college student, one course – Aviation 101 at the University of Illinois – shaped my life more than any other. At the end of the semester, I had earned three credit hours … PLUS a pilot license. Over the next 60 years I logged five thousand hours, flew dozens of airplanes, attained a host of pilot ratings … and even spent several years teaching others to fly. 

Though I’ve retired my wings in real airplanes my passion just won’t die – regrettably its now limited to flying a flight simulator at our local airport and talking about it. Anyone who’s familiar with smaller airports has seen and heard old guys sitting in the lounge, swapping lies about what it was like way back when. Over the coming year that’s just what I’ll be doing – in Grandpalyle’s Notebook. Taking a year or two at a time, I’ll share my logbook and reminisce about some of those old times. Hope you enjoy the journey as much as I know I will.


P.S. Check the smile on my face as I fly with Skip some years later.

Skip and Lyle $100 hamburger.


  • Aviation Statistics

    Nearly sixty years ago I realized that simply because I was pretty good at math and science . . .  and my father and grandfather were engineers . . . and engineering was the gold ticket for young men (and a few very independent women) . . . didn’t mean I had to be an ...
    Read more
  • 1962 The Student Pilot

    1962 The Student Pilot
    In Aviation Statistics I described how I became a student pilot. But once started, the journey was nothing like I ever expected. Learning to be a pilot was as much academic study as it was practical skills. At the University of Illinois, this meant a three-hour lecture course combined with semi-weekly “lab” sessions at ...
    Read more
  • Rookies in a Bonanza

    1963-1967  The first hurdle in a lifetime of flying was now behind me. I was a pilot – a newbie – but a pilot none-the-less. But what lay before me? Would I, like many with a goal of becoming a pilot, punch the ticket, take a few trips, then move on to new ambitions? Would time ...
    Read more
  • A Brush with History

    A Brush with History
    Crystal Lake Airport (now Lake in the Hills) was a sleepy airport serving local pilots about 30 miles northwest of O’Hare. It housed a flight school with three trainers and a couple flight instructors.  Hangars on the field included one for my dad’s brand new Beechcraft Bonanza – the ultimate single-engine airplane of the time. Even ...
    Read more
  • Non-Flying Years … With One Exception

    Non-Flying Years ... With One Exception
    1968-82 When Dad sold his Bonanza, I was compelled to face the classic dilemma of a young married aviator wannabe. Flying takes a concurrent supply of time and money – and I was limited on both fronts. These years were filled with life and upheaval – children, marriage issues, job changes, and six moves. With one ...
    Read more

Related Images:

Sign up to receive a notice when I have a new post.

We don’t spam!