THE AIRPLANE I ALMOST OWNED

© 2020 Bill Murphy

I almost owned a real airplane once!  Well, half interest in one anyway.  

I was in college at the time, and a classmate/good friend from the Mississippi Delta was a liscensed pilot.  I’d flown several times myself, and loved it! But I was always a passenger.  I wanted to fly with the stick in my own two hands.

The MS Delta, where my college pal hailed from, is a hotbed of aviation, mostly agricultural crop dusters. And those pilots most always have at least one ‘light plane’ of their own.  That said, my friend returned to school after a weekend visit at home.  He was absolutely bubbling over with joy!  He’d found an afortable airplane that we could buy!

The aircraft he’d found was a well-worn single engine, open-cockpit, WWII trainer, a Fairchild PT-19. It sat TWO. Perfect!  

According to my friend, it was in ‘pretty good’ shape, and was worth far more than the $1,200 the owner was asking.  Now this was in the early 1960s, way before the days of cellphones, much less pagers.  It would have taken a lot of get a call to me over the weekend.  My friend asked the owner if he could have permission to fly the plane to the small county airport just a few miles from our college, but it was a ‘no.’  The ‘running lights’ on the plane had an electrical short, and to fly it after dark would have been both dangerous, and illegal.  And it was fast approaching nightfall.  The next day was out, as my friend had a test early the next morning, and had to head back to school that night.  “Will you hold it for me?” my friend asked.  The guy said that he’d ‘try.’

Now this was sixty years ago.  I was newly married, in school, and on a limited budget.  My half, $600 might as well have been $6,000.  But I told him to count me in!  I’d come up with the money somehow.

My pal left for home as soon as he possibly could that week, and went straight to the airfield.  The plane was gone!  Someone had cash in hand, and had sweetened the pot to boot.  Sorry.  Maybe next time. 

Fast forward about 10 years, to June, 2nd 1972.  Jackson, MS heard shocking news.  A local newscaster from WAPT-TV, Dick Thames, was killed while filming a segment intended for the nightly news.  It appeared that the aircraft experienced structural failure while in the air.  

He was a passenger in a ventage WWII training aircraft… a Fairchild PT-19.

Was it possible?  Could this have been the the very aircraft that my friend and I missed out on?   I’ll never know.  

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