Charlotte was not happy about my great purchase of the Aeronca and after much discussion; I agreed to sell the plane in 1972. I sold the plane to my friend Smoky Weidner who liked the plane. Smoky also had a Stearman biplane, but it took a lot of fuel to fly it as well as high maintenance. The Aeronca was economical to fly and very low maintenance. You would think that’s the end of the story but, as they say on the TV commercial,” But wait, there’s more.”
A month or two after Smoky bought the plane; Charlotte and I were sitting on the back porch at the farm one afternoon late. Here comes my plane low over the house. It circles and lands in the west pasture next to the house. They taxi up to the house and get out. It was Smoky and a guy he was selling the plane to. They sat down and had a glass of tea with us. Charlotte was blessing Smoky out for flying so low right over the house. I had baled hay in the west pasture and plowed it as well and knew there were a lot of terraces running across the field. I told Smoky when he took off to go way over to the west fence line where there were no terraces to deal with.
They climbed in and taxied to the end of the field and started taking off right in the middle of the field, just where I told him not to. He came barreling down the field, and about the time he would get the tail up, he would go over one of those terraces he would lose speed and the tail would drop down to the ground. This repeated all the way down the field until Smoky got to the fence at the north end of the field. I thought he was going to take out the fence but, just before he hit the fence, Smoky literally jumped the plane over the fence into the next pasture. He continued down the north pasture toward the lake and the big trees around it. At the last minute he pulled up and just cleared the trees and disappeared beyond them. After a second or two, he reappeared climbing out to the west.
The prospective buyer never flew again!! Smoky later admitted it was about the closest call he ever had. This was a guy that flew all during WW II crashing twice and being shot down another time. He spent some time in prison camps but was released when the American troops came through Italy. It was during his time in the Air Force that Smokey got his nickname. Probably a good rule of thumb: Don’t fly with a pilot named “Smokey.”