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.


  • 1988 Best Year Yet – Part 1

    1988 Best Year Yet – Part 1
    Flying the Mooney for a year and a half had given me just the remedial practice I needed. By this time I had logged more than 800 hours. Now, it was time to simply enjoy flying to the max. Getting in the plane had become as natural as getting in a car. If a destination ...
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  • The Best Year Yet – Part 2

    The Best Year Yet – Part 2
    1988 Flying my own plane had a collateral benefit. I found myself reaching out to people just so I could share my love of flying with them. Here are few of my favorite stories: Susan finds herself Southwest Minnesota State University In the spring of 1988, Susan, near the end of her gap year, realized her passion lay in ...
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  • My first trip across the Rockies

    My first trip across the Rockies
    1988 Road tripping in a plane Sara, a close friend of Jeff’s, was hanging out at our home one evening and talking about the fun times her family had on road trips. Seeing her joy, Jeff, with a touch of envy, said we never did that. She immediately countered, “Of course you didn’t. You flew everywhere with ...
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  • The Red Baron

    The Red Baron
    1988 The next step In the preceding two years, I had logged more than 300 hours flying my Mooney all over the country, in all kinds of weather, over all kinds of terrain, and into airports small and gigantic. I was itching to get back into the kind of experience I had in the Baron. And I ...
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  • My Own Personal Airline

    My Own Personal Airline
    1989 Requirements My dream was to use the Red Baron as my own personal airline. Airlines have an extraordinary safety record – and it’s no accident. They pay meticulous attention to the quality of both their equipment and their personnel. Go left? OK with caution.Go right? Don’t even think about it! Equipment: The Turbo Baron had not only ...
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