Flying yourself to a show like Sun ‘n Fun is always exciting, but it was especially poignant for Herb Rose from Sacramento, Pa.
Rose, 49, has been flying for just two years. He spent a year restoring a 1959 Cessna 150. This year he proudly flew the orange and white Cessna to the Lakeland aviation festival where it stood out among the rows of vintage aircraft. There was just something different about the little two-place aircraft that inspired Cessna aficionados to take a closer look.
Rose is used to the scrutiny, saying the aircraft is very rare.
“It is a 1959 classic squaretail, number 293,” he explained. “It was one of the first off the assembly line the first year Cessna made the 150.”
Rose bought the airplane two years ago — even before he had his private pilot’s license.
“When I brought it home my wife said, ‘boy are you gonna look silly if you don’t pass your check ride,’” he recalled. “I earned my private pilot’s license in about seven months.”
It took considerably longer to restore the aircraft, he notes. “It was a buzzard when I bought it,” Rose laughed. “Boy it was in really bad shape! But it had a new engine in it — a factory remanufactured engine and that made it worthwhile. I bought the airplane for $13,000 and I have about $30,000 in it.”
On the side of the fuselage is inscribed “Spirit of Hoshie.”
“That was my aunt who died when she was only 38 or 39. I was just a teenager when she died,” he said. “She was married to my Uncle Bud, who flew B-26s in World War II. I asked him to come up with a name for the plane and that is what he came up with and that suited me just fine.”
Rose decided to add an Old Buzzard cartoon on the tail because of the condition of the plane when he bought it. “The controllers get a kick out of that,” he noted.
The interior of the aircraft has all the bells and whistles Rose could fit into its small confines. “You can’t get any smaller than this,” he said, noting that its ramp weight is less than 1,600 pounds. “It’s pretty tight in there!”
In the center of the cockpit beneath the panel of polished wood is a pedestal that Rose uses as an in-flight desk.
“It holds my pens and pencils and the like,” he said. “The previous owner had his Citizens Band radio hanging there.”
Sadly, Rose’s Sun ‘n Fun experience did not end well. On April 8 Rose, like so many other pilots who were parked on the Sun ‘n Fun campus at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, became increasingly concerned about reports of a thunderstorm moving in from the north, bringing the potential for damaging hail, wind and rain.
“The weather reports indicated that the storm was going to arrive in Lakeland and stay over the area,” Rose said a few days after the show. “I couldn’t go north because of weather and there was no place inside to tie it down. So I moved the airplane to Tampa thinking it would be out of the path of the storm, and hoped for the best.”
However, the worst happened. The storm also hit Tampa, dumping precipitation in the form of hail. Rose’s beautifully restored aircraft took a beating.
“The windshield is fine, but there are quarter inch dents all over the wings, elevator, empennage and the cowling,” Rose said. “It is sickening because I felt like I had been entrusted with a piece of history. They don’t make 59s any more.”
The aircraft is insured. As this issue of General Aviation News was going to press, Rose was working with his insurance company to see if repairing the aircraft was economically feasible.
“I don’t want a bondo airplane,” he said, “and the insurance company may just decide to total it.”
Despite the unfortunate ending to his journey, Rose says he’d do it again.
“I wouldn’t trade the memories I have for the world,” he said. “I spent a year restoring it and getting it to the condition where I could fly it down to show it off and I did it and I had a blast! I flew 25.3 hours round trip. I met a lot of new friends. I am definitely going back next year even if I have to drive! I met such fantastic people.”
Rose notes one of the more amusing parts of the trip was having the Sun ‘n Fun controllers refer to his aircraft as a Piper Tripacer because they didn’t recognize it was an early model Cessna. It’s either insulting or amusing, depending on your point of view, said Rose, adding that he opted for the latter.
“My friends got a big kick out of that!” he laughed.