Thursday, November 4, 2010
BORN TO FLY --- Paul Felkner
By Myrtle Felkner
No doubt about it, Paul Felkner was born to fly. As a little kid he sometimes played with his tractor under a tree in the yard, but more often he was begging his parents for balsa wood and glue, and usurping his Dad’s workshop in the basement to build model airplanes. Later on the teen-aged girls wondered why the second date with Paul was always an airplane ride. That was an airworthiness test, ladies. (I won.)
Paul’s dad and uncle, who farmed together, encouraged Paul to raise pigs. Every cent he earned went into a special account to buy an airplane when he was old enough for a license. At the age of 16 he began his flying lessons, but the army air corps interfered somewhat with the whole plan. He got his private license while a cadet in the corps but was married and had a baby daughter before that money was invested in his first plane, a small Luscombe. A temporary runway ran criss-cross through a hay field, with a small tin hangar at one end. Paul, Myrtle and baby Barbara flew countess hours in that little Luscombe. (Barbara never learned to fly, but she married a pilot, too.)
Hard times in the fifties made new demands on the small family. Finally, Paul reluctantly sold the Luscombe in order to buy a few dairy cows, hoping for some steady income in addition to the egg money! As times got better and farming improved, Paul got a Stinson, a Taylorcraft, a Cessna 172, and eventually he and a couple friends went together to buy a twin-engine Apache. (The family had increased to three children; what’s a man to do?)
Paul Felkner in His Plane
In the meantime, Paul had joined the Ottumwa Chapter 409 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, an international group of pilots with a passion for building their own airplanes. Here he made friendships that lasted his whole life and still influence the lives of his family. Months of pondering, a decision made, Paul bought the blueprints for an Acro 1 airplane, developed by Paul Poperezny. When Myrtle saw the blueprints, however, tension increased in the household: Where do I sit in this airplane? Paul immediately exchanged the blueprints for an Acro 2, which is a two-seated version with Myrtle’s seat plainly designated. With peace in the family again, Paul began to build. And build. And build. Nine and a half years later, Paul flew his craft off the new Felkner runway, flew the required 40 hours that the FFA requires before he can take a passenger, and then took off with another pilot and best friend for the International Convention of the EAA in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The year was 1992, just fifty years since Paul had graduated from high school and entered the air corps.
Paul’s aircraft won the “Lindy” award that year in Oshkosh; in 1995 it won the Paul Poberezny Craftsmanship Award. Reserve Grand Champion followed at aircraft events at Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Best in Class, Experimental Aircraft at Blakesburg, Iowa.
But the certificate Paul was proudest of was his Young Eagles Award for having given over one hundred youth their first ride in an airplane.Paul had begun to build a second airplane when he died in 2007. An honor guard of his buddies flew over the cemetery at his burial.
The editor sincerely appreciates the contribution of the above article and picture to The Jerome Journal by Mrytle Felkner of Centerville IA and Joan Felkner of Iowa City IA.