In forty years of aviation, I have been fortunate enough to have flown a wide range of aircraft. In talking to prospective students, I have been asked which aircraft had been my favorite, which I had the most hours in, and a variety of other questions about aircraft I had flown. And so recently, when someone asked me what aircraft had the biggest impact on my life, I realized that even though there were so many different experiences, so many different aircraft I had the great fortune to fly throughout the years, the aircraft that made the biggest difference in my life is one I had never flown.
The aircraft that had the biggest impact on my life, the one pictured here is a Cessna 310B. No glass cockpit, no fresh paint, not even a swept tail. Don’t think it would get a second look sitting on our ramp today. It really does not look that impressive. Yet forty years ago, I would bet that this one aircraft set in motion more aviation careers than any other ever built. I was seven years old the first time I laid eyes on her. She was beautiful. If the beautiful lines of that Cessna 310B did not have me falling in love with aviation, then the sound of those engines thundering to life each week certainly did. She was flown by Skyler King. From the time I was seven years old, every Saturday morning, at 11:30, out of the blue of the western sky came SKY KING! I never missed an episode. My television was my first connection with aviation. The “Songbird” was Sky King’s airplane and those television episodes set in motion so many careers. Sky King flew out of his own private strip on the Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona. To watch her race down the runway and leap into the air, banking left and rising above the mountain peaks was as inspiring as anything I had ever seen. Sky King was a weekly, low budget television show that went on the air in 1951, two years before I was born. How many of my peers were also affected watching Sky King flying the Songbird from one episode to the next. The show went off the air in 1962 but ran in reruns for a few years thereafter. I wonder how general aviation might have been positively affected had the show run longer. I don’t believe it to be a coincidence that twelve years later, as those seven to twelve year olds were now in their twenties, general aviation was producing pilots at an all-time high and general aviation could not build airplanes fast enough?
Funny that the airplane that most affected my life and led me to a forty year career in aviation is one I never flew… but one I certainly owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to. After all, I could have been watching “Have Gun Will Travel”!