The road leading to Jim’s Baby Ace
began at a young age in 1950 when
an uncle gave him his first airplane ride. This story sounds similar to Steve McGuire’s first flight,
but there is a significant difference.
Jim’s flight was in a surplus P- 40
fighter his uncle bought after World
War II. “I was hooked after that first
flight,” Jim said.
Jim’s story of learning to fly had its
ups and downs (pun intended). “At
age 15 I worked
for a crop duster
as a flag man,”
“I stood in the
field as an aiming point for the
pilot and got
covered with deadly chemicals. They
flew modified Cubs as crop dusters.”
Obviously, this was in the days before
OSHA, but Jim survived and it got
him in the air, taking flying lessons
in a Piper PA- 12 in lieu of pay.
His parents didn’t want him to
fly, so they were not aware of the
work-for-lessons arrangement. Of
course, the secret didn’t last long.
I was always interested in the
Mechanix Illustrated Baby Ace.
He got caught away from home in
bad weather during a cross-country
flight, and his flight instructor called
his home to see if he had returned.
Jim got grounded but still managed
to sneak in some lessons and beg
some free rides. “I would also ferry
spray-planes to job sites,” he said.
Jim earned his private pilot
certificate in 1962, got married,
and joined the Army. He became
an aviation mechanic and later a
crew chief on Army fixed-wing and
rotary-wing aircraft. Although
it wasn’t a flying
job, he did occasionally get some
stick time. His
Army career was
ture that is too complex to tell in
this story, but his duties continued
to nurture his love of flying.
Years later, Jim ended up in
Ponca City and rebuilt a Piper J- 3
Cub with the help of the Ponca City
bunch. He flew the Cub to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in 1998 and still
considers that a high point of his
Earl C. Downs