Pilots who are fond of their airplanes often speak about them in dulcet tones, using endearing phrases that are usually reserved for wives or girlfriends.
Roy Prugh of Peoria, Ill., is one of these pilots. He owns a 1959 Ercoupe he named “Kate.”
The Ercoupe, said Prugh, is one of the more enduring designs in aviation, having had several manufacturers since its inception in 1939.
“My aircraft was built by Forney Aircraft Co. That’s why I named her ‘Kate’. Her name is Forney Kate,” he said with a grin.
Prugh has owned “Kate” for 20 years. He and his wife of 45 years have an “understanding” about the man-machine relationship, he said.
“When she gets sick of me, she says, ‘go out and fly! Get out of the house!”
Prugh wasn’t thinking about an Ercoupe when he went airplane shopping. “Actually I was looking for a Stinson,” he recalled, “and I came across this plane. It has quite a colorful past. I talked to it for awhile and flew it and it followed me home.
“The gentleman who had it before me flew Corsairs off carriers against the Japanese,” he continued. “He flew a variety of aircraft, but this was his favorite. The only reason he gave it up was because he had a heart attack.”
Prugh paints a colorful tale about his airplane’s bright yellow paint scheme.
“There was a painter at the airport who was in his 80s,” he said. “I asked him if he could paint my airplane and he said, ‘Yep, sonny, you just bring it in here and I’ll paint it for you,'” Prugh says, imitating the man’s creaky voice and southern accent. “I showed him the color scheme I wanted and I come back a week later and the airplane is yellow, all yellow! No pin striping or anything! I asked him why it was all yellow and he replied, ‘yaller paint was on sale that day’.”
Prugh likes his airplane so much that he inspired his friend, David Scott, from Washington, Ill., to get one.
“I flew his a couple of times and I was hooked and thought, ‘yep this is it,'” said Scott, who was parked next to Prugh at last summer’s AirVenture. “So I found one I liked. I spend more money on this airplane than I do on my real mistress, but don’t tell her that,” he joked.
Scott’s plane is named “Roxy,” after a friend of his wife’s who died young.
“This is how we remember her,” he said, affectionately patting the cowling of the airplane.
Scott is enamored with the economy of the Ercoupe.
“It’s very fuel efficient,” he said. “It will burn five to six gallons an hour and I can cruise at about 80 knots. It’s not as sexy or fast as a Bonanza, but I’m not chewing up 18 gallons an hour.”
Scott’s airplane is a 1947 C-D model. It has a gross weight of 1,250 lbs., which means it is light enough to fit in the Light Sport Aircraft category.
“It has become a rare bird, and the monetary value of it has jumped,” said Scott, adding quickly that for him the true value of the airplane is measured by the joy of $100 hamburger flights and rides he gives to children.
“My kids love it,” he said with a smile.