The Surly Bonds of Earth

My Old Man didn’t realize that when he shared his love of flying with me all those years ago that a whole new world and a whole new community of friends would be opened up to both of us.

Unfortunately, our shared love of flight doesn’t make our aviation community immune from life. Since the Old Man and I have made many, many friendships over the years, it’s inevitable that some will be lost, and some have been.

Recently, our Luscombe community has been dealt several blows. An iconic Luscombe pilot and owner, Bill Tinkler “slipped the surly bonds of Earth” back in October.

His experiences and his knowledge of flight span one amazing lifetime: In the Army Air Corps during World War II, taught to fly by a WASP, successful career with the airlines, Docent Emeritus at the Air and Space Museum, lifetime Luscombe owner. Did I mention that he accomplished many of these while battling Multiple Sclerosis?

bill and sharon

Captain Bill Tinkler is pictured here with his wife, Sharon. She was already a pilot when they met, but he shared his love of flying Luscombes with her.

Soft-spoken and unassuming, Bill Tinkler lived a full life while pursuing his passion of aviation and through determined perseverance held a medical nearly to the end of that life.

He was a quiet man, but when he spoke, we Luscombe drivers listened, for we knew he had something to say worth hearing. He’s gone now, but his knowledge has been shared, and his love of flight has been passed down to his children and grandchildren.

I like to think that, while he was ungainly on the ground because of MS in his later years, in his Luscombe he “danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.”

We country folk have a saying that troubles often come in threes, and it was with deep sadness that we learned another fellow Luscombe pilot found out earlier this year that he has inoperable pancreatic cancer.

Following his journey through social media as he cleaned out his hangar, sold his beloved Luscombe and endured chemotherapy has been at times heartbreaking and inspiring. Over the years, I loved to read on the Luscombe List about Mike’s adventures crossing the Canadian border in his Luscombe to get pie.

There will be no cure for him, but I like to think that when his battle is done, he and his Luscombe will be reunited and they will top “the wind-swept heights with easy grace, where never lark, or even eagle flew” and there they will find pie.

bob gandy

Bob Gandy was a Luscombe owner from Kansas who had a passion for antique classic airplanes. This picture was taken at the Antique Airplane Association Fly-In in Blakesburg, Iowa.

Number three didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to his family or friends. One day, Bob Gandy was lively on the Luscombe List planning a fly-in and the next his heart stopped and he was gone. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, all that was important to him ceased to be.

Someone else will have to finish that new engine installation on his 8A. He had hoped for it to be completed and broken in by Labor Day, so he could fly it to Blakesburg this year, but that responsibility will now fall on another.

I have wondered since hearing this shocking news if Bob’s soul resisted ascending to heaven. You see, Bob was from Kansas. He thought he was already there.




  1. says

    Bob Gandy was my friend, my fly – in cook, and one of the funniest men I ever met. I shall miss him every day of my life! I was helping Bob with his 8a and if I have a say it will fly again soon.

  2. Kimberly Bush says

    Deb, can you see them up there telling the angels to angle their wings differently for faster, smoother flight?

  3. says

    Very nice Deb.

    A friend of mine and client, slipped the surely bonds last Saturday a week ago. Upon returning from a trip in the morning, he told the chairman of the company he wasn’t feeling well.

    He went home to his wife and 2 little kids an hour later and collapsed dead in front of them at age 40.

    Dan Wesson was a corporate pilot, mentor to young kids, friend, husband, father, devout follower of Jesus Christ and a great American.

    Dan will be sorely missed.

  4. Jim Dukeman says

    Deb, welcome back, another great story. Losing friends is never easy, but with the knowledge they have shared with us and the friendship they have given they will always be remembered. We have lost our share of greatness here in NC as well, we all have, no matter where we park our planes. But their memories and stories are still with us. Its true that “Pilots NEVER die” they just fade away. GOD BLESS / JD

  5. Steve says

    Thank you, Deb, for celebrating the lives of these individuals whose passion for flying has inspired us. We’ve lost our share, too, here in Kansas …

    And, if I can add some opinion, anyone who spends his or her entire flying career in a “trainer” aircraft such as a Luscombe, Cessna 150 or maybe even a Piper Cub, certainly has a true love of flying. There’s something about actually feeling the air — as opposed to flying a heavier airplane, just watching the dials and getting there fast.

    Thanks again for writing such an inspirational piece.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *