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.


  • Fly-By-Knight

    1990 Flying at a new level If the world headquarters of my personal airline was our home on Knight Street, the natural name had to be Fly By Knight – with a fleet of one Red Baron. By this time, I had attained a degree of mastery, and the stories were more about the trips. Here are ...
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  • Winter 1991

    Winter 1991
    LifeLine Pilots Emergency Mission The phone next to my head snapped me out of deep winter slumber. It was 1:30 AM. The temperature outside was 17 degrees below zero. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!  Lifeline Pilots calling. “A boy and his parents need to be in Minneapolis STAT for a kidney transplant. Will you take the mission?”  Kidney transplant “Of course,” ...
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  • Fall 1991

    Fall 1991
    Plane trouble Thursday morning Marie and I headed to Palwaukee for what promised to be a wonderful week: Dinner with a friend and advertiser in Danville, Kentucky; a three-day conference at a luxury resort in Naples, Florida with newsstand magazine wholesalers from all over the country; and on the way home  a visit with another friend ...
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  • 1992 Farewell to the Red Baron and Snoopy

    1992 Farewell to the Red Baron and Snoopy
    A grand view of the Grand Canyon, childhood memory at the Crayola factory, the race is on bragging about my plane, a trip only possible on Fly By Knight, and time to move on to the next plane.
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  • Buying a Beechcraft Duke

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    Why a Duke? Having flown the Red Baron for five years, I had fallen in love with speedy access to any place in the U.S. But I suffered the same itch as anyone who has ever owned a boat … or a house … or a plane….  For a few dollars more you can upgrade to ...
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