Expect Left Traffic

A little backstory

I think I’ll ramble on a bit to frame up where my interest in flying comes from. My grandfather was a Bonanza pilot. He owned two or three of them over the years (I’ve seen pictures of N26JR and N16JR, both A-36s). He also owned a Cessna 320 (N316AJ), but about the only thing he ever mentions of it is how much gas it drank, and that he bought it from A.J. Foyt. He loved his Bonanzas. They always had blue trim. I’ve heard often how they’re the best plane he ever flew. I only remember riding in 16JR once, when I was very young. My grandparents had a place they would fly in to at Pine Mountain Lake, that I remember visiting once. 16JR was a 1973 that my grandpa later replaced with a 1988 (estimated), 26JR. 16JR was later owned by Peter Tomarken, a game show host. Unfortunately on March 13, 2006 16JR put down a few hundred feet off the shore of Santa Monica Bay. There were no survivors. I found this picture on airliners.net, which may be the only digital photo of one of my grandpa’s planes.

I remember flying in 26JR from Hayward Executive down to LA, with a stop somewhere in between for fuel (I was 11 or 12, it’s a bit fuzzy). We went down to Disneyland, saw the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose, then over to San Diego for the Zoo. Aside from a massive sunburn on my scalp, my most clear memory was of a ten or fifteen minute period where my dad and I swapped seats and it was my job to keep the plane in straight an level flight. I remember not being able to reach the pedals, having a hard time seeing over the console and how little force was needed to actually move the plane. I’ve been fascinated with planes all my life, but that was probably the concrete moment where I decided I wanted to learn to fly. I’ve daydreamed of flying in one form or another ever sense then. Of course life happens and dreams like this often fall by the wayside.

I’m glad I remembered to pick it back up and run with it, and with any luck I’ll be able to share it with my son if he’s interested when he’s older. I still haven’t found out what happened to 26JR (it’s now registered to a Mooney), but I would be thrilled to once again fly any A-36 with the old throw over yoke. Though if I ever manage to hunt down any of my grandpa’s old planes, I may have to start selling organs to make the current owner an offer.

March 17th, 2008 Posted by | Flying |

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