On June 17, pilot and former Riverside, Calif., resident Scot Douglas realized a closely held lifelong dream by flying to historic Flabob Airport (RIR). What made the flight so special was not only the significance of the destination, but also the aircraft he was flying: A Cessna 310 that had been the flagship of his father’s charter operation at Flabob Airport and which Douglas had lovingly restored over the last 20 years.
The return to Flabob went off without a hitch, Douglas reports. “It was an emotional homecoming to be sure,” he said. “One of the first people to greet me was a 92-year-old fellow who came out to witness the arrival and who received his first flight lesson from my dad at Flabob back in 1972.”
Douglas grew up hanging around his father’s flight training, aircraft maintenance shop and air charter facility at Flabob. When his father died in 1978, his mother had no choice but to liquidate the business, along with its modest fleet of aircraft. Among the airplanes sold was a 1956 Cessna 310, which had been the flagship of the charter operation.
Douglas moved out of the area shortly after his father’s death and his involvement in aviation came to an end. However, whenever he visited his hometown, he always made a point to stop by Flabob, just to walk around and check the status of the Cessna 310, the only aircraft of his father’s that remained on the field. Douglas was saddened to see that the aircraft was not being flown regularly, and was, over the years, slipping into a state of disrepair. In 1985, during what would be his last visit, Douglas found that the aircraft no longer occupied its normal spot and thought surely it had been shipped off to some nearby salvage yard.
By 2000 Douglas had returned to aviation and had settled permanently in Ashland, Oregon. One day while sharing lists of favorite airplanes with a group of fellow pilots, Douglas learned of an early model Cessna 310 in Paso Robles, California, that was for sale. Though not in the market for an aircraft, the attractive asking price prompted Douglas to contact the seller, a conversation that resulted in an appointment to take a personal look. When Douglas arrived at the Paso Robles Airport, the excitement of having the opportunity to look at an aircraft similar to that of his fathers was overshadowed by the realization that the plane at which he was looking was in fact the very same one his father had once owned. While reviewing the aircraft logs Douglas was shocked to discover that in the 22 years that had passed since his mother had sold it, it had flown only 9 hours and that the last inspection entries were written in his father’s hand and dated in 1976. With very little thought given to the challenge of bringing it back to airworthy condition, Douglas bought the 310.
After several weeks and countless phone calls arranging for necessary repairs, the aircraft was flown to its new home where the restoration process began. Because of the financial impact of such an undertaking, Douglas said he had to exercise extreme patience, yet did so without losing sight of his ultimate goals — to bring it back to original 1956 condition and, above all else, someday pilot it back to Flabob Airport.
Not lost on Douglas was the ironic timing of his visit, which happened to coincide with both his father’s birthday and Father’s Day weekend.
As a side note to his journey, Douglas recounts the tale of when he was 3 years old and his mother was going through a painful and bitter divorce. “My aunt recommended a rather unusual way to deal with the difficulties of such an event and that was to take flying lessons,” he said. “So in 1961 my mother went to Flabob Airport and began taking lessons from the owner and operator of Grieve Air Service, Mr. Floyd Grieve. Well, my Mother got a little more out of the deal than she bargained for — not only did she get her pilot’s certificate but a little over a year later she and Floyd Grieve were married. Never having met my biological father and because Floyd came into my life when I was so young, he has been the only father I have ever known and whenever that title is every used by me, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind about whom I am referring.”