I grew up in New Jersey in the 1950s. We lived next to a small grass-field airport that my friend's dad operated. At the age of 9, I decided I really loved aviation and airplanes of all stripes. We would swing in a cabbage crate attached to a motor hoist in the maintenance hangar and pretend to be flying. It was heaven to be surrounded by the likes of J-3 Cubs, Aeronca Champs, Bellancas, Swifts and Navions that graced the small airports of the day.
It was a wonderful period in aviation because surplus World War II planes were readily available for purchase by the civilian market for practically nothing. There was no shortage of motivated buyers at our small airport. My most memorable childhood experience at the airport was having the opportunity to ride in the front seat of a Boeing Stearman bi-wing open cockpit plane that had been a trainer for the Army Air Corps during the war.
That ride in 1955 will remain etched in my memory forever. It was the genesis that led me to enlist in the U.S. Air Force and later to earn my private pilot rating and become an aircraft owner. Thank you, Boeing, for introducing me to a life involved in aviation and for building the very best aircraft for our military and our airline industry. Happy 100th birthday to an American icon!