Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Light-Sport Chronicles: Hansen Family Values

This family tree has wings for branches and clouds for leaves

"One day—we were 15—I said to Ron, 'We should buy ourselves an airplane.' He said 'Okay, that sounds good.'"

The boys asked dad for permission. "Yeah," said Dad, "if you can find someone stupid enough to sell one to two 15-year-old kids!"

The twins pooled their money and did indeed locate such a seller. He let his 1940 J4 Cub Coupe go to the boys for $350. Mechanics at Martin's school helped them get it re-licensed, and three weather-delayed days after their 16th birthdays, Jon and Ron Hansen soloed.

The twins got their commercial licenses before long and flew as crop dusters in J3 Cubs with 85 hp engines. After graduating college in '57, Jon was hired at United Airlines. He was 21.

But pilot jobs weren't forthcoming. Nobody in his training class got hired—and 200 working pilots were furloughed, too. The boys asked United how long before they'd hire again. "About four years," was the reply.

"So, I joined the Naval Cadet flight program and flew a Grumman S2F anti sub plane as a reservist," Jon says. Guess how long his hitch was? Yep: four years. He left the Navy in 1962 and was hired by Delta airlines, moving up the ladder until he was a Senior Captain flying the big jets. He retired after 33 years in the cockpit.

Brother Ron went to work for Pan American Airways because Delta had a nepotism rule: no immediate family members were allowed.

Ron stayed with Pan Am until the day it went under in 1991, then flew for Conrad "Connie" Kalitta's American International Airways (AIA), a heavy jet cargo hauler.

Now for Hansens the Younger: The family tree has another set of flying twins, Jon's sons Mitch and Mike, along with Jon's third son Mark. Ron also has one son, Jeff Hansen, and a grandson, Matt. Of the five offspring, only Jon's third son Mark hasn't made a career as a pilot...yet. He's now studying for his sport-pilot license. Meanwhile, Jeff is a pilot...for Delta.

"Delta's nepotism rule didn't extend to nephews, so we were good," Jon says with a laugh. "Jeff flew as Flight Engineer on my last L1011 flight. Kind of made me proud."

Just to add a star to the top of that Hansen family tree, Jeff's son Matt is also an airline pilot. He learned to fly with Hansen Air Group, got his instructor's license and became one of the first Able Flight instructors, along with cousin Mitch.

"We were involved with Able Flight from the very get-go," says Jon. "We helped get the first two applicants going for Charles Stites. I told him, 'We've got the instructors and the airplane, we'll cover it all.'"


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