By Di Freeze
When Tal Miller recently asked me to tell a little of my history and that of our “Journals” at a Silver Wings Fraternity function, I searched through three years of archives, beginning with our January 2000 inaugural issue of the “Centennial Aviation and Business Journal.”
A few months before that, we began searching for “history,” and were told to look in Tal’s direction, since he knew “everybody.” Tal began his aviation career in 1936, as a line boy. He later served as a U.S. Army Air Corps primary instructor (under Tex Rankin) and B-25 pilot, and after the war, instructed for a while before becoming involved in aircraft sales, which he has done for the past decade out of Centennial Airport. Through that career, he came to know an intertwined group, including Walter and Olive Ann Beech, Harry Combs, Bill Lear, Roscoe Turner and Elrey Jeppesen. As for whom he sold to, the list included Danny Kaye, Arthur Godfrey and Paul Mantz.
The time I spent with Tal was my baptism into the fascinating world of aviation. Since then, I have had the opportunity to visit with many diverse personalities in the industry, beginning with many Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame inductees, whose ranks Tal has since joined, including Harry Combs and Emily Howell Warner. As we broadened our scope, I had the pleasure, as did other staff members, of meeting Bobbi Trout, who we were recently saddened to hear had left us, as well as Marge Drucker Bong, the widow of 40-victory “Ace of Aces” Dick Bong. My conversations with pioneers such as Charlie Gates and very recently, Dee Howard, provided wonderful insight into both the early history of fixed base operations and aircraft manufacturing. I have been enthralled while listening to the stories of Steve Ritchie, the “Last Ace” and the only Air Force pilot ace of the Vietnam War; Bob Pardo; actors Dale and Cliff Robertson, and most recently, Paul Tibbets (look forward to the story in April). Space prevents me from ment
ioning so many others I have been fortunate to visit with, such as Flying Farmers, civil engineers, mechanics, etc.
Since I would be speaking to a group of pilots whose organizational bylaws state they can’t join until at least 25 years after soloing (powered flight), and I have never soloed or even taken a lesson, Tal (who has served as president of the organization several times) assured members that I had at least flown in some great planes!
That’s definitely true. Besides jets I’ve traveled (luxuriously) in to different Business Aircraft & Jet Previews, I’ve been transported back in time in Dick Jone’s T-6, the “Spanish Lady” (my first non-commercial airplane ride!) and Jack Cronin’s T-6, Bob Reisling’s T-28, Joe Thibodeau’s Sea Fury, Tom Mezger’s N3N and DC-3s. I’ve seen Denver upside down in Bob “Prof” Struth’s Christen Eagle and René Minjares’ Aviat Pitts Special. I flew in the 69th Battalion’s Twin Otter, courtesy of Bob Heckendorf, and a Colorado Air National Guard UH-1 Huey, as well as swooping down close to the earth in a crop duster’s AgCat.
Tal once told me he’s been lucky to meet all of the people and have the experiences he’s had. Only three years into my journey, I would definitely say the same!