Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Serendipity

ser-en-dip-i-ty [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee]
noun
1.   an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
2.   good fortune; luck.

Funny, the more I work at something, the luckier I seem to get. On rainy days there's nothing more handy than the internet for finding out stuff, and so it came to pass that I recalled a conversation last year with an interesting fellow who held a key to the history of my Callair S-1A. He gave me two names; a long year later I decided to look them up.

The first man I spoke to was a gentleman, it turns out, who I spoke with last year in my initial rush to find out more about the airplane. Herb Andersen moved to Afton WY in the 1950s to work for the CallAir Aircraft Company. He was the first to tell me that the Calls never built an S-1A from scratch - they were Interstate Cadets that somehow were badged as CallAirs. In my digging, I found a couple of S-1 CallAirs that are no longer on the FAA registry with serial numbers that were in the Interstate range of numbers, but mine was quite different ... it was a CallAir number, one of two aircraft built with that unique feature. I'll give my theory about that later, in another post.

Herb went on to a distinguished career with Mooney, Aero Commander and Piper before meeting with the legendary Curtis Pitts about the idea of moving the manufacturing of the Pitts Special aerobatic airplane to Afton. The result was Pitts' moving his company to Wyoming, joined later by Frank Christensen and the development of the Christen Eagle aerobatic airplane and the Aviat Husky utility aircraft. The robust aircraft manufacturing business in Afton today proceeds directly through these men to Reuel, Barlow and Spencer Call and the CallAir Aircraft Company. In 2010, Herb was awarded the Curtis Pitts Memorial Trophy for Innovative Aerobatic Design, preceded by his induction into the Wyoming Aviation Hall of Fame in 2003.

My next stroke of exceptional luck was to meet by telephone Major General Boyd Eddins, USAF Retired, shown here with his Brigadier stars. In 1952, General Eddins was a teenaged college kid, working in the CallAir Aircraft factory for 60 cents an hour and actually took a hand as my airplane was built. Mr Reuel Call offered to sell it to him for $2,800, more than 60 cents an hour could afford and a sum that would derail the young man's plans for a university degree and a career in the Air Force. 

General Eddins eventually served in a number of public positions, including the Wyoming legislature, before his retirement and, today, enjoys flying his RANS S-6 in the beautiful Star Valley that cradles Afton.

My dilemma with the restoration of this airplane hasn't been so much the nuts and bolts of the operation - Malcolm is in charge and doing a beautiful job of that. The tough part was finding the original paint scheme and colors. Nobody seemed to remember other than a black and white photo of Serial Number 1001 and the nugget that Barlow Call, owner of 1001, liked red and white airplanes. But what about Serial Number 1002, Mr. Reuel Call's airplane? The answer came as a complete surprise: General Eddins so loved that airplane that he kept a color photograph of it sitting in the final assembly building, framed in his home:
It is yellow with a blue accent, edged in white; Reuel Call's favorite airplane colors.

So now we know. Everyone with even a passing interest in the restoration of this airplane has a new spark of excitement. The paint order will go out next month and with Malcolm proceeding apace with covering, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.