I began my flying career in the Piper Cub pictured below in April, 1976, at a small farm field at Williamsburg, West Virginia. I began flying with a retired instructor, Tate Mauzy. The airplane is a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub. It has only 65 horsepower, but with two of us, it would be airborne in about half of the 800-foot strip.
Tate Mauzy passed away in October 1996, at the age of 86. The picture below was one of his favorites - just seconds from a smooth 3-point landing in his private strip. This nice Cub is still owned by his son, Bill Mauzy.
I would have put a larger picture of the Cub, but I am currently in Papua New Guinea, and I do not have a higher resolution photo with me. When we get back to West Virginia, I will try to include a picture of Tate Mauzy on this page.
In September, 1976, I began flying with Mrs. Ruth Gwinn (1919-2010), manager of Hinton-Alderson Airport (WV77) at Pence Springs. She is pictured above with her 1959 Cessna 150. I soloed in this plane at Lewisburg on March 19, 1977.
I received my Private Pilot's License at Beckley, West Virginia, May 5, 1978. The examinaer was David Burgess, who went on to have an FAA career, and retired from the FAA.
"Eagles' Wings" actually got its name as a carry-over from the name of a magazine I tried to "get of the ground" in the early 1980s. I advertised in Trade-a-Plane, and got responses from all over the world, but did not get enough new interest continually to keep it going.
Some of those who corresponded with me through this effort were Dorothy Ferris, who then owned the Taylorcraft Company, Igor Bensen (1917-2000), who was famous for his gyrocopters, and Larry Montgomery, of Larmont Aviation, a promoter Helio airplanes and missionary aviation. The head of the Flying Octogenarians (pilots over eighty), and Kings Engineering Co., designers of the Angel airplane, also. I think our little magazine was the first to feature the Angel on the cover.
I received most of my advanced training at Mallory Airport in South Charleston, West Virginia. I received my Instrument Rating in 1983, and the Commercial Pilot Certificate, and Flight Instructor Certificate the following year. I had many hours of training with Benny Mallory, and the late Merry Casto.
Since 1984, I have tried to provide thorough, quality flight training at a reasonable price, and since the end of 1995 we have spent several years in Papua New Guinea. We are involved in educational and aviation oriented missionary work there. Click here: Papua New Guinea for more information about that. As of March 2020, we are in Papua New Guinea, on lock down because of the Coronavirus. Still able to do some mission work.
Pictured at the left is my primary flight instructor, Ruth Tolley Gwinn. She soloed at Pence Springs in 1935, when she was 16 years old. By the time she was 19, her Dad, James (Jim) Tolley, had a contract to provide primary training for military pilots, at Princeton, West Virginia. She was one of the Instructors in this program. She was a good friend to the "little guys" in aviation, and remained our good friend until she died in 2010.
After her husband's military career, they returned to West Virginia where he was was the manager of the Greenbrier Valley Airport (LWB) during its first 25 years (1968-1993, I think), and she managed the Hinton-Alderson Airport (WV77) at Pence Springs, the place of her aviation nativity. Here Mrs. Gwinn is pictured with her 1959 Cessna 150. A lot of people learned to fly in this airplane. I soloed in it at Lewisburg on March 19, 1977.
She and her husband, Col. John Wesley Gwinn, are buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.
Here is another picture of Ruth Tolley Gwinn, the daughter of a West Virginia aviation pioneer, James Tolley. He began landing airplanes as Pence Springs in about 1931, and at one time there were as many as seven instructors working there - probably right after World War II when the "GI Bill" was paying for veterans to learn to fly.
In April 1976, I had my first flight in a small airplane, and my first experiences actually "taking the controls." The pilot was a retired Instructor, Tate Mauzy. This yellow Piper Cub was 30 years old at the time, and in it I learned the rudiments of Flight. I flew with Tate for several months, then as fall approached I was anxious to begin "logging official flight time." I began flying with Ruth Gwinn in September 1976.
Here I am with the 1946 Piper J-3 Cub, at the same field from which I first began flying, 25 years later, December 2001. While doing my training in Mrs. Gwinn's Cessna, and even after I obatined my Private Pilot's License in May 1978, I had opportunities to fly this Cub with Tate Mauzy, and his son Bill.
Here we are coming in for a landing at "The Farm." From this strip I had my first flights in a small airplane, beginning in April 1976. The strip was about 800 feet long, and we always landed uphill, and took off downhill. Later Bill Mauzy made the usable landing area about 400 feet longer. I recall one experience in which Tate Mauzy and I encountered a strong whirlwind just we before we reached the ground. I was just learning to land; he instantly took control and landed safely. I said, "Boy! What did I do?" He assured me, "It wasn't you. It was a whirlwind," and said he had only encountered one other like that. Now after 6600 hours of flying time, I think I have only encountered one more that severe. "Whatever happens, keep flying the airplane!"