In the mail…

Deb McFarland is the proud owner of Lester, a 1948 Luscombe 8E, and part of the “Front Porch Gang” at Pickens County Airport in Georgia.

It’s not often that a reader takes the time to send me a written letter through the postal service, and when he or she does, it is special to me. Just this past month I received a very warm correspondence from Dick Waite of Hagerman, Idaho. I felt it appropriate to share his words as they reflect the experiences and the sentiment of a lot of Short Final readers.

“Your column in General Aviation News is always a first read.” Thanks Mr. Waite. I really try to keep my writing fun, just like my flying. If it becomes too serious or negative, it will be time to do something else.

“A number of years back (1950 or so) I flew an 8E lots,” added Mr. Waites. “I often wonder where it is.”

What I found is that N1710K, a 1946 Luscombe 8E, has been exported to Australia to join the ranks of Luscombe owners there. While it may seem sad that this airplane has been sent far from its former American home, I know from years of activity on the Luscombe list that there is an active Luscombe community in that country. In fact, N1710K is now VH-SIL, and if you Google this number, you will find a YouTube video of this lovely airplane flying a demonstration at the 2009 Barossa Air Show.

The airplane was recently registered to a gentleman in Heathcote, Victoria, located in southeastern Australia. From the Google images of the state, the area looks like a beautiful place to fly. Mr. Waite added this comment about the airplane: “It once iced up at 11,000 feet over our hills, quick on the carb heat and the C-85 was off and running.” Let’s hope the flying in her new home is not as exciting!

Mr. Waite’s student solo permit is dated June 1944, which he concludes is “lots of water under the bridge.” He still flies and has a Cessna 185 on his home grass strip. “Bought the first 185 in 1966 and have never been without one.”

He and his daughter are partners in flying, and at one time five of his family members were private pilots. “We have a 1989 Super Cub which I flew home from Vero Beach. My daughter is a real good Cub and 185 driver.” I can think of no better compliment that a father can give to his child. Their family business, River Rat Express, which has been in operation for more than 40 years, is located in Stanley, Idaho. It is a transportation and car shuttle service for those rafting the Idaho rivers.

Mr. Waite also noted the field elevation at Stanley is 6,500 feet. My curiosity piqued, I looked up Stanley, Idaho, on AirNav and found three airport possibilities. Stanley Airport is one mile southeast of town and open to the public. It is listed as a 4,300 x 150 foot dirt/turf runway in good condition. Four airplanes are based here but only in the summer months. There is no winter maintenance on the field. The airport is located in a valley surrounded by high mountainous terrain, and there are numerous air taxi operations in the summer months (80% of operations).

Also owned by the state of Idaho, the other two fields are some distance from town (20 and 31 miles). There are no airplanes based at these dirt/turf strips, and cautionary statements include: recommended landing runway 21, go-around extremely difficult, first 400 feet of runway 03 is dogleg, and — my favorite — big game animals have access to runway. Most of the operations here are air taxi operations as well. Backcountry flying at its finest!

Given, I don’t fly in the backcountry here in northern Georgia, but I have landed on a strip with a dogleg. I have used many one way in and one way out fields, and we do have all sorts of wild animals that frequent our field, including a mother black bear and her cubs. But as a whole, my flying is your typical suburban flying experience. I don’t feel the need to pack a gun or survival rations when I visit my flying friends at neighboring airports. Flying in Idaho sounds exciting, and Mr. Waite confirms it: “We have fun also as you do. Keep it up.”

In his 84 years, Mr. Waite has done lots of different kinds of flying. “I have been lucky in the walk (or run) of life,” he said. In 2004, he was the 38th recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award “for which I am pleased,” he noted. Nowadays, he is slowing down and trying to learn how to retire.

In his letter, he enclosed a beautiful picture of his family’s 1929 Travel Air 6000 flying over the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho. He proudly states that his daughter is flying the C-185 that took the picture. This Travel Air has a 440-hp Wright that he declares will outperform the PA 18.

“Keep your 8s flying and do your writing!” he concluded.

I will. As long as there are men and women like you, Mr. Waite, who have interesting experiences and wonderful tales that need to be told. I will do my best.

Deb can be reached at

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