Monday, November 1, 2004
Cessna's Turbo Skylane RG
What a difference it makes when you can say, “Look ma, no legs!”
There will always remain some argument about the birthplace of aviation. It seems to be either North Carolina, where the Wrights finally flew, or Ohio, where all the hard work was done before history was made at Kill Devil Hill, N.C. Wichita, Kan., is like Dayton, Ohio.
There will always remain some argument about the birthplace of aviation. It seems to be either North Carolina, where the Wrights finally flew, or Ohio, where all the hard work was done before history was made at Kill Devil Hill, N.C. Wichita, Kan., is like Dayton, Ohio. It’s the unsung birthplace of general aviation in the United States. Back in the good old days, almost all the airplane manufacturers had plants there; this was where the work was done for the rest of us to fly. Lloyd Stearman started there—he built airplanes with folks like Walter Beech, Al Mooney and Clyde Cessna. Huge numbers of airplanes flew out of Wichita during World War II. Today, Beechcraft/Raytheon, Boeing and Cessna (www.cessna.com) still make airplanes in Wichita, ranging from piston-engine singles to multi-engine jets. It’s also the town where Rod Lowe grew up.
Lowe’s father, a World War II B-17 and B-29 radio operator, worked for Cessna. Cessna and flying were in his blood. “My dad joined the Cessna Flying Club and learned to fly. It was an incredible deal—you could fly for virtually the cost of fuel,” says Rod.
Rod worked for Cessna as well and joined the Cessna Flying Club right away. “I started in C-150s for my private and then moved to the C-172s and C-182s. The club had C-206s and high-performance airplanes, like the C-210 and turbo 210s. We’d fly to Colorado to ski during the weekends with friends. I had a great time!” he recalls.
Along the way, Rod married Donna, who was supportive of his flying and liked the freedom that it provided, in no small part because they didn’t have to drive for hours to get out of Kansas. Rod says, “The club had several Cessna 182RGs. I did my commercial license in one because of the retractable gear and constant-speed propeller. Before long, Donna teased me that I was spending as much money at the club as it would cost me to own an airplane. At first, I was skeptical, but she worked the numbers, and it was cheaper. We bought our first airplane, a really nice 172 Skyhawk.”
With their own airplane, both Rod and Donna took to flying in a big way. Rod clearly remembers, “Our kids grew up in airplanes. It was like a car. Our first child flew at four weeks old, and our second at eight weeks. When we moved to Dallas, the airplane allowed us to stay in touch with our families. We were doing so much flying that Donna decided she needed to learn how to fly. She sold her Corvette and learned how to fly in our Skyhawk.”
With a growing family, Rod bought a Cessna 182 Skylane. “It was faster and carried more. With four of us, for sure, we needed the room,” he explains.
With a new airplane came the move to Albuquerque, N.M. The high altitudes of New Mexico challenged the Skylane, which was perfect for flatland flying, but it became anemic on hot days. “We took off once in the Cessna 182 from the big airport and it took us a long time to start climbing. Donna poked me in the ribs and said, ‘Okay, you made your point. Go ahead and climb.’ I told her I’m not doing this on purpose. We’ve got to get some speed up before we can climb.”
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