Short wing Piper craft from around the country landed at the Pratt Airport for a visit June 27.
A pair of 1949 Piper Clippers, along with other Piper aircraft, made their way to Pratt for a Short Wing Piper Club visit to the Pratt on June 27. A half dozen Pipers took part in the fly-in as well as some pilots that chose to drive in from Wichita.
Club members had gathered for a Short Wing Piper Convention in Wichita. Part of the weeks activities included a Fly-out/poker run from Wichita to visit the B-29 memorials in Pratt and Great Bend. Those airports were used during World War II to finish out the B-29s that were flown out from the Boeing factory in Wichita and provided training facilities for pilots and crews.
Those that came to Pratt for the fly-out took the walking path around the airport to see the historical buildings and signs then spent time in the B-29 Bombers on the Prairie Museum that is the original parachute building and one of the very few original structures left on the airport.
and some decided to take a side trip to Pratt to see the airport and visit the B-29 Bombers on the Prairie Museum. Members of the club have to own a Piper. Those visiting Pratt come from Wichita, Illinois, Tennessee and Mississippi and Texas. One club member, Michael Coghlan, was originally from Ireland.
Leading the fly-out was club member Gilbert Pierce who is a former Pratt resident who graduated from Pratt High School and attended grade school in Iuka before moving to Pratt in 1950. He was a paper carrier for the Tribune. He and his son Steve both have 1949 Piper Clippers.
Pierce bought his 1949 Piper Clipper PA 16 in 1995 then he, his wife Barbara and son Steve restored the aircraft. Since then, they have flown the plane all over the U.S. and Canada, Pierce said.
While Pierce enjoys his plane, he does admit it takes some muscle to handle the plane when landing in a strong wind because the center of gravity is behind the front wheels. He said later models, like the Tri-Pacer PA 22 (1953 or 1954 model) that also landed at Pratt, have a nose wheel and that moves the center of gravity forward between the front wheel and makes it easier to land and keep the plane straight on the runway.
“I have to be on the pedals,” Pierce said. “I’m used to it.”
He also gets his plane well above takeoff speed before he actually takes off. His plane is light weight, a couple of people can easily push the plane, and he needs the extra speed so that if the wind should suddenly drop just as he lifts off, he still has ample speed to takeoff safely.
Besides his interest in aircraft, Pierce also remembers taking part in drag racing at the airport. Races took place, with permission, on the ramps. Hot rods from Wichita came to Pratt to participate with from 70 to 80 vehicles taking part. Timing lights were brought in and it was a very popular activity in Pratt, Pierce said.
Pierce said he knew people who served at the Pratt Army Air Field during World War II that liked Pratt so much, they decided to live her after the war.
Pierce is a veteran who joined the Navy in 1957 and spent 20 years in the service.
Also enjoying the B-29 museum was Michael Coghlan, originally from Ireland. Coghlan said he owned a PA 20 tail wheel Piper that was currently being repaired. Coghlan said he was in the Royal Air Force and he was in the Pilot in Training program from 1960 to 1972 at Dorset, England. He was in the training division and his job was to get young people interested in going into the Royal Air Force and becoming pilots. He currently runs his own business repairing vintage aircraft and motor vehicles. He occasionally flies aircraft to museums in England including a Sunderland he delivered to South Hampton to the Hall of Aviation.
Coghlan, who is a member of the British Air Craft Preservation Society, became interested in flying because he was in the flight path of the first jet aircraft developed in England.
He said the B-29 Bombers on the Prairie Museum was excellent.
“It’s a tribute to the people who have gone before,” Coghlan said.