is with a sense of great personal loss that I share with
you notification of the passing of William T. Piper, Jr. on August 24, 2007. I had the
real pleasure of calling him a friend since March, 2001 when
he welcomed me to his home so we could discuss details
surrounding his signature from 1934 in my copy of the old
Davis-Monthan Airfield Register. Thereafter we met at least
annually to socialize and talk of the "old days" of
aviation. These sessions were invariably accompanied by his
martinis (on the rocks; olives).
I have two favorite recollections of Bill. The first has
to do with the pilot log image and itinerary you can see
on his original Web page, below. At his invitation, I attended
the Piper Fly-in ( "Sentimental
Journey") at Lock Haven during June, 2001.
I recall him striding into the Piper Museum waving
something in his hand above his head. He called out to me, "You're
going to like this!"
And sure enough, it was his pilot log
book from 1934 covering the period of his travels across
the US and to Tucson. The log book image and his itinerary
derived from it are, as I said, shown below.
My second recollection involves his visit to my home early
in 2005. I fired up Microsoft Flight Simulator on my computer,
projected the image on the wall and set Bill up in a chair
with the joy stick. Incongruously, I loaded the P-51 for him
to fly (well, it IS a tail-dragger). After a little instruction about joy stick controls,
I watched him push the throttle forward and the Mustang started
Now, this was the great part.
When the airplane reached "about the right speed" I watched his
right hand almost imperceptably push forward, ever so slightly
on the stick, to get the tail wheel up. I remember thinking
to myself, "His hand has grown wizened, but he hasn't
lost that 'touch'!" It brought tears to my eyes.
accelerated and he pulled back the stick a little
to get it airborne. He flew it around the wall for a good
long while as I watched. Gentle banks; climbs and turns.
As I silently watched his hands and face and the look in
his eyes, I could visualize his voyage across the United
States in 1934. Same concentration and skill; same joy in
Bill was a gentleman's gentleman. Each time we met was a
precious experience for me, as he would review everything
from his flying experience
to his golf game and fishing tales. His wife, Beth, was a
patient, gregarious and pleasant partner in the whole thing.
For me, dmairfield.org is more than just a Web site.
Bill Piper is one of the reasons why.
Following is sent to us by the Piper Museum, Lock Haven,
T. Piper Jr., scion of the aircraft family that made the
Piper Cub world famous, died Aug. 24, 2007 at Geisinger Medical
Center in Danville. He was 95. He
was a resident of Marco Island, Fla., and spent summers in
Lock Haven and Coudersport.
In early aviation history,
William T. Piper Jr. ranked with such luminaries as Howard
Hughes, Gen. James Doolittle, Glenn Martin and Donald Douglas. A
pioneer in general aviation, Bill Jr. upon his graduation
from Harvard University in 1934, joined the company founded
by his father William T. Piper Sr. He became president in
1968 when the company’s worldwide sales reached $96
million annually. In 1970, he was named chairman of the board,
by which time Piper had manufactured 86,000 planes, many
of them during World War II when many of the planes and pilots
did heroic service as spotters of enemy artillery. He remained
chairman until 1973 when the company was sold and moved to
Vero Beach, Fla.
Mr. Piper was born in Sharpsburg,
Pa., on Sept. 8, 1911, the eldest of five children of William
Thomas Piper Sr., a civil engineer, and Marie Van de Water
Piper. He represented his company as an officer and
director of the Aircraft Industries Association and served
as a director of Utility Aircraft Council of the AIA. When
general aviation manufacturers decided to break away from
the large airline and military manufacturers, he helped organize
the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. He
was awarded distinguished service awards from Utility Aircraft
Council, the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association and
Wings Club of New York. He was a member of the Newcomen Society,
an international organization for the study of the history
of engineering and technology and was its guest of honor
Bill was a quietly gregarious, humble, and
giving man. He had a broad civic interest and along with
other members of his family, and through the Piper Foundation
they established, he helped to support educational, recreational
and cultural projects and facilities that benefit public
health. He did much to set high standards for the
quality of life in Lock Haven and Clinton County. The Piper
Foundation continues contributions to local organizations
and college scholarships for local students. In recent years
he helped establish the Piper Aviation Museum in Lock Haven. Mr.
Piper was involved with the following organizations: Trinity
Methodist Church, Bald Eagle Athletic Foundation, Lock Haven
University, Lock Haven YMCA, Lock Haven Hospital, Lock Haven
Historic Society, Annie Halenbake Ross Library, Lock Haven
Chamber of Commerce, West Branch Valley Flood Protection
Assn., director of Commonwealth Bank, The Quiet Birdmen and
Piper Aviation Museum. An avid fisherman and golfer
most of his life, he belonged to the Spruce Creek Rod and
Gun Club, Clinton Country Club and Island Country Club.
him in death was his first wife, Margaret Bush. He
is survived by his wife of 26 years, the former Elizabeth
Wilson Talley and three children, George, William and Drew
Piper; four grandchildren, Katherine, William, Nicholas and
Benjamin; a sister, Mary Piper Bolles of San Francisco, and
two sisters-in-lw, Helen Wann Piper of Wichita, Kans., and
True Talley Fisher of Bellefonte. Many beloved nieces and
nephews also survive.
The funeral will be at 11:30
a.m. Wednesday at the Piper Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way,
Lock Haven, Pa. Friends may call at the museum from 9:30
a.m. until the time of services Wednesday. Private
interment will be held at the convenience of the family at
the Piper Mausoleum, Highland Cemetery, Lock Haven. In
lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Piper
Aviation Museum, 1 Piper Way, Lock Haven, Pa. 17745, or the
Piper Foundation, c/o Mrs. John Bert, 516 Mawman Ave., Lake
Bluff, Ill. 60044. Arrangements are being handled by
the Yost-Gedon Funeral Home, 121 W. Main St., Lock Haven,
Original Web page, current to December 29, 2007, follows. This information will remain unchanged in his memory.
The Visit to Davis-Monthan Airfield by William
T. Piper, Jr.
December 9-11, 1934
This vignette is a good example of why the Davis-Monthan
Airfield transient log is so intriguing and addictive. Not
only is it rare to be offered such an intimate window into
the Golden Age, but then to be able to actually meet and speak
with one of the pilots is a special experience.
In a series of exhilarating coincidences, I acquired Golden
Age photos of Mr. Piper and his aircraft, as well as to visit
with him and his wife. He is one of three pilots who signed
the log with whom I have made personal contact (the others
Trout, and John
Without the details of the coincidences, my contact with
Mr. Piper started with an invitation to a reception and dinner
at Oshkosh 2000 sponsored by the NASM. In the buffet line
was the director of the Piper Museum, Harry Mutter. I showed
Harry my copy of the Airfield register, Harry sent me the
photographs below and at right, and I learned that Wm. Piper
is my neighbor, living not a mile away!
William T. Piper, Jr. learned to fly in Bradford, PA in 1931-32.
His instructor was the Taylor test pilot, Rensselaer Curtis "Bud"
Havens, who left Taylor in 1936 to become an American Airlines pilot.
R.C. Havens is not to be confused with Beckwith "Bud" Havens who was a passenger in a military aircraft whose pilot,
B.R. Dallas, signed the register in March 1928. See the bottom
of this Register page link
for their signatures.
Mr. Piper used to fly back and forth between Bradford and
Boston while in college. He has about 6,000 flight hours ("I
stopped counting after a while."). His last flight as
pilot-in-command was several years ago, when he carried his
wife, Beth (who enjoys flying, but is not a pilot), on a short
flight in a friend's Cub.
The image above is from his pilot log book for December 9-30,
1934. Mr. Piper landed at 5:00 PM on December 9th at the Davis-Monthan
Airfield. He was inbound from El Paso enroute to Phoenix.
He had departed Bradford in NC14707, a Taylor Cub E-2, with
a 40 HP Continental engine, a tailskid and nine gallons of
fuel. He said he made many stops along the way for gas. The
Cub had no radio. Navigation was by dead reckoning, road maps
and the aviation charts of the time.
He was fresh out of college (Harvard, economics), 24-years
old, and on his way to the west coast to establish a distributorship
for Taylor aircraft manufactured in Bradford (this was before
the Piper name was associated with the Cub). He stayed briefly
in Tucson and continued his trip, according to the Register,
on December 11th.
The chart below reconstructs his itinerary from information
recorded in his pilot log book. This part of the itinerary
brings him to Tucson. He had departed Bradford in October
and headed west. You can see where the weather started getting
cold, and he headed southwest through Texas
His father's instructions were to go forth on the continent
and give demonstration rides in his new airplane. Preferably
he was to sell the aircraft before he returned to Pennsylvania.
His itinerary west of Tucson is tortuous, flying up and down
the west coast from San Diego to Washington state. His last
pilot log entry for this Cub was May 11, 1935, when, he noted,
he sold the airplane in Long Beach.
Photo Courtesy of Harry Mutter
Wm. T. Piper, Jr. (right) and Harvey Martin. Mr. Martin
was with Aircraft Associates, Long Beach, CA, the organization
that became the Cub distributor on the west coast. This important organizational development is documented in Juptner, Volume 7, pages 78-79. Note in
Bill's pilot log, above, that he traveled to Long Beach on the
30th. He recalled the photo at right being taken near that
He remained on the west coast from 1934 to 1936 developing
the distributorship with Aircraft Associates. New, disassembled
Taylor airplanes were shipped by boxcar (six planes per car)
to Aircraft Associates for final assembly and sale. The airplanes
were called the "Western Cub".
According to the Register, two Cubs landed at the Davis-Monthan
Airfield. Mr. Piper's NC14707 was not the first. Joe Woolfolk,
flying Cub NC137W based in Los Angeles, landed on September
18, 1930 at 4:30 PM. He was inbound from Hobbs, NM and did
not list a destination. Mr. Piper's hunch is that Mr. Woolfolk's
airplane was one of the earliest Taylor Cubs (manufacture
began in 1930), probably flown west by the individual who
bought it. This was not the case, as you'll see at the airplane's link.
At left, your Webmaster and Wm. T. Piper, Jr. in his den, March 7,
2001, 66 years and three months after he landed at the Davis-Monthan
Airfield in December, 1934. Photo by Beth Piper.
Yellow "Cab," Popular Aviation, July, 1940 (Source: PA)
I asked him whom, among the pilots who signed the Airfield
Register, he met while he was in California. He said he met Amelia
Earhart, "... a couple of times. She used to keep her airplane
at a field north of Los Angeles [probably Union Air Terminal]. She was young, with tousled
hair." Wiley Post was seen frequently, as was Roscoe
Turner. He did not meet Clyde Cessna. However he did meet
Dwayne Wallace who, in 1936, became president of Cessna Aircraft
Company, a job he would hold for over 40 years. Among fellow manufacturers who signed the Register, he never met
Claude Ryan, Eddie Stinson or Donald Luscombe. He met Walter
(and Olive) Beech, and they, along with the others who would
finally become the "big three" small plane manufacturers,
had long relationships over the years at GAMA meetings. In
1936 he moved back to Bradford. The manufacturing plant there
had suffered a fire, and the facility was moved to Lock Haven
in 1937. Above, right, from Popular Aviation (PA) magazine, July,1940, a misunderstanding that speaks for itself. For more on Pennsylvania Central Airlines, please follow the link to Register pilot Clifford Ball's page.
Below, an aerial photograph of the Lock Haven facility from Popular Aviation, December, 1940. Yellow "Cabs" stand for delivery. Unfortunately, their numbers are not readable.
Piper Factory, Lock Haven, PA, Popular Aviation, December, 1940 (Source: PA)
Below, a photograph dated 1941 from the Smithsonian online photos. Left to right are Bill, sister Elizabeth " Betty" Piper Harford, brother Tony, brother Pug and father Bill Piper, Sr. The context of the photograph was the successful testing of the Cub as a Grasshopper utility/observation aircraft for the Army Air Corps (note the grasshopper graphic on the fuselage).
Piper Family, Bill is at Left, 1941 (Source: NASM)
A contemporary video of Bill performing a walk around description of a J-2 Cub is at the link at the top of the right sidebar. A separate page on this site for the Piper Aircraft Corporation is at the link.
Try this sometime. Take a guy out for
dinner who not only signed our Davis-Monthan
Register, but also whose company manufactured some of the
premier general aviation aircraft of the 20th century. Do a
little hangar flying over cocktails and snacks at home first.
Bring up this Web page on the wide-screen. Get the story
told to you again, first-hand, of all the pictures and itineraries
above. It'll make your eyes tear over, and make you wish
you lived in a different era.
Above, Ms. Webmaster, William T. Piper, Jr. and Your Webmaster,
in Florida March 21, 2006, 71 years and three months after
he landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield and signed our Register
in December, 1934.
Yes, a good time was had by all! Thanks, and long life,
Bill! Photo, again, by Beth Piper.
Below, Bill Piper, Jr. flanked by Mr. & Mrs.
Webmaster. The book in front of Bill is a copy of the Davis-Monthan
Airfield Register (available for purchase here).
It is opened to page 206, where Bill signed it on December
February 28, 2007
Thanks to Beth Piper for the following from Lock Haven, PA, The Express, June 27, 2014.
J3 Cub now 'official Pa. aircraft’
June 27, 2014
LOCK HAVEN - It's official: The historic Piper J3 Cub is now the official aircraft of the state of Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Corbett has signed into law the legislation, known as Act 73.
State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, who has spearheaded the campaign, said he is elated.
"At long last, the exploits of the Piper Cub, and the people who made the engineering marvel, receive their just recognition," said Hanna, whose H.B. 1989 made the designation official. "Let the world know that Lock Haven gave birth to the plane whose popularity in peace and war remains unparalleled 77 years after it first began production."
Hanna said the bill's signing on Thursday as Act 73 comes on the heels of the successful 29th Annual Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven Fly-In, which concluded last week in Lock Haven.
"There will be an extra spring in the steps of local residents and flying enthusiasts," said Hanna, whose efforts to win the official designation spanned several years. "Clinton County knows how to build things and build them right."
Hanna said the region's manufacturing prowess amazes to this day.
"It is hard to fathom the dedication and professionalism that it took to produce the 20,000 Piper Cubs built between 1937 and 1947," Hanna said. "Lock Haven and the Piper Cub prevailed through the Great Depression and the tough years of World War II."
The local workforce crafted a new Piper Cub every 20 minutes, and 80 percent of all American World War II pilots received their initial flight training in the plane with its trademark yellow fuselage and black trim.
"Lock Haven showed what it was made of and put that pride and passion into building a light-but-durable plane that earned its fighting wings as a 'hedgehopper' during reconnaissance missions over the bloodied hedgerows of France," Hanna said.
"The Piper Cub has one impressive lineage: Born in Pennsylvania, proven in battle and flying high and proud to this day."
Air & Space Magazine (A&S), September, 2014, below, included an article announcing the Piper Cub as Pennsylvania state airplane.
Piper Cub State Airplane, Air & Space Magazine, September, 2014 (Source: A&S)
UPLOADED: 05/05 REVISED: 04/03/06, 04/25/07, 08/28/07, 12/29/07, 07/13/14, 01/22/15