A retrospective look at a blog Robert published two years ago at this time. His dad is still doing well and, at 86, contributing regularly to an online news letter and occasionally to Flyingmag.com.
At this time of year it's usually pretty easy to get caught up in the bustle and forget what the season is really about. But not this year. Not for me.
I come from an airplane family, and that's something I'm grateful for. I have one person to thank for this, my dad, Norm Goyer, who turned 84 last July and who works as an aviation writer today.
Like so many other young men growing up during the Great Depression, my dad was enthralled by airplanes. They were, we need to remember, a new thing. And while they've become so commonplace, especially in the lives of pilots like us, it's important to understand the enormous change that manned flight had on the way we saw the world. More than any other invention, the airplane lifted us up, made us believe that we could do things that had never been done before. Sitting on a perch above the world below, it's easy to believe that it's a short hike to television, splitting the atom and walking on the moon.
And my dad was there to see that hinge point in history, and he wanted in. It was surprisingly easy for him. My grandfather, while securely anchored in the old world, was happy to see his son take an interest in airplanes. Though money was tighter than tight, he bought him a flight in a Standard biplane at the municipal airport and once drove him down to Springfield to see the famous Gee Bee racers fly. And dad, like many kids his age, built models out of balsa and tissue paper, learning in the process the nuts and bolts, the stringers and formers, of aviation in a way I never did.
Had the United States not entered World War II, there's no doubt in my mind that my dad would have become a pilot anyway, but we did join the battle, and on his 18th birthday he joined the Navy, to be a pilot, it goes without saying. He trained in Cubs and SNJs and was six months out from being a fighter pilot when the war ended.
When he came home, he, like tens of thousands of other military-trained pilots, kept right on flying. He met and married my mom, Tina Goyer — their first date was a flight in a PT22 — and kept right on flying. They raised a large family, and dad kept right on flying. Dad has owned so many airplanes, or parts thereof, that he can't quite keep track any more, but early on he shared a little yellow Champ, which was the first airplane I remember flying in. He worked in television, directing the local news on WHYN in Springfield and produced and starred in a daytime childrens' television program, in which he played a shipwrecked sailor, Swabby.
On the weekends, we were out at Pilgrim Field in Hatfield, Massachusetts, or at Turners Falls, just up the Connecticut River from there. Pilgrim was an idyllic spot, and the place where I first experienced the heavenly sensation of lifting off the ground and going flying. At one point, Dad owned a share of a Grumman Wildcat, an airplane that inspired numerous badly done lunchtime drawings on my part. What a beaut.
In the early 70s Dad quit the media world, moved our family out to Southern California and started an aviation business at Apple Valley's newly opened airport, operating a small FBO there. Within a few years, he had the dealerships for both Cessna and Pipers, two Part 61/141 flight schools, the shop, fuel sales, car rentals and the best little airport coffee shop in Southern California. There were weekends when three or four-hundred airplanes would come to our little airport to get a burger or head into the local inn for lunch. It was a flying time.
In all of this, my mom, Tina Goyer, who passed away two years ago, was his partner. She oversaw the books, ran the restaurant and and car rentals, hired and fired, and gave the most pleasant and informative airportunicom advisories that side of the Colorado. And all six kids worked there, too, at one time or another, and two of my brothers became A&P mechanics. Pete got his IA and flew corporate for a time, too. Over the next few years, Dad expanded the operation to include FBOs at three other desert airports.
Mom and Dad eventually sold the businesses, but Dad couldn't stay away from airplanes for long. Within a few years he was producing films on warbirds, a gig that he parlayed into a job as editor of a couple of Southern California-based aviation magazines, including Scale R/C Modeler magazine. And he inadvertently gave me my first aviation journalism job when he offered me a few bucks to write some captions for him. Within a year, it was my day job. Mom was our full time editor, and, Lord knows, we needed her.
For five years we worked together putting out a variety of aviation magazines in addition to SR/CM, including Sport Pilot/Hot Kits, Air Progress, Affordable Flying and a number of special edition newsstand only magazines, including several on ultralight and World War I aviation. The hours were nightmarish, the pay was low, but the benefits were extraordinary. We had a couple of airplanes at our disposal, including an F33 Bonanza that we loved, and we got to fly and photograph several dozen airplanes a year. The experience was invaluable, and it was all thanks to Dad.
After I left to come to Flying in the mid-90s, Dad kept working as an aviation writer and photographer, for Private Pilot magazine as senior editor and, later, Editor in Chief, and then later as a consulting editor at Plane & Pilot, where he remains on the masthead today. He also writes for a bi-weekly online aircraft sales website, where his only assignment is, "write what you love."
And there's no shortage of that. He can today hold forth on the merits of Menasco engines and frise ailerons, remark on the advances of French WWI-era powerplant design, and offer singing praise of the flying manners of Vultees and Monocoupes alike. He is a veritable encyclopedia of aviation history and lore.
I don't think that he intended for his passion to become mine, but it did. I don't think he knew as he was taking my mom on that first flight over the Connecticut River Valley, that some day their kids would be caught up in the world of flight along with them, dreaming of wings as he did, but that's just what happened.
It's not a gift that I take lightly. Especially not at this time of year. Especially not at this time of my life. Thanks, Dad.