Unusual Attitudes: The Circle Is Unbroken

Jane Pape as a young girl when I taught her to fly in the 1970s. Martha Lunken

Some ’specially fun flying recently: a ride in EAA’s B-17, a DC-3 I brought back home to Hamilton, Ohio, from where it had flown for many years as a freighter, and then a Cessna 195 I took from Hillsboro, Ohio, to Port Clinton on Lake Erie. I rode back to Lunken Airport from Hamilton in a Cessna Caravan (useful but no soul), and a friend got me from Port Clinton to Lebanon, Ohio, in his RV-8 (better). There, I picked up my Cessna 180 after work from wizard mechanic Mark Day and flew home to Lunken, musing about how, in a lifetime of flying, so many things seem to come full circle.

Flying that DC-3 into Hogan Field at Hamilton took me back to Hogan Air and Miami Valley days—135 freight operators I worked with frequently in my FAA years. But “worked” is a loose use of the term because I loved those airplanes and the guys who flew them. I remember them all, and landing at HAO, I think my eyes were a little teary…or maybe I’m being too sensitive (which I don’t mind).

And it had been 50-some years since I’d flown the Cessna 195 Businessliner—iconic, art deco and famous for its “Shaky Jake” engine. Back in the late ’60s, after a P&G pilot friend taught me “tailwheel flyin’” in a Cessna 120, we rented a 195 from a Damon Runyon-esque character named Tony Maier. Tony rented T hangars and a few airplanes and pumped fuel at Lunken Airport, but I don’t think anybody ever knew—or cared—if he actually had a pilot certificate. This 195 was rather “primitive,” and more than once, Will Adams and I drifted off into the grass after losing a brake on landing. The tower guys were quite tolerant, and Will would get out, shoving, pushing, cursing and guiding the tail while I taxied back to Tony’s hangar where we’d raise hell about the —ing brakes.

And how well I remember riding (albeit unwillingly) in the back end while Tony and a pilot named Jim Bettes took the 195 to T.W. Smith’s Engine shop at nearby South Blue Ash Airport. On final to the short sod strip, there was much gesturing and shouting up front; these were pre-headset days. Tony, in the right seat, would grab the controls, and the happy-go-lucky Bettes would yell, “You got it, Tony.” But then Tony would let go, yelling, “No, no, you got it, Jimmy.” After several of these exchanges, we impacted the ground—with both or maybe neither flying the airplane—and Tony shouted, “Go around, go around.” Laughing, Jimmy yelled back, “Hang on, we are going around.” Riding through a ground loop from the back end of a Cessna 195 is like riding “The Whip” at Coney Island.

Now, a doctor friend has decided to part with the beloved 195 he’s owned since medical school days, which has to be more anguishing than selling your car or your guns. I introduced Doc to Ed Rusch, a guy who can fix and fly nearly anything, including the Ford Tri-Motors at Island Airways. Ed did the 195 annual at Hillsboro and shared some tips on handling a 195 with “crazy legs” (crosswind landing gear). Then I flew it to Northern Ohio for more beautifying by this “Jake Genius.” That flight was also nostalgia-filled, thinking about and missing old friends such as Will Adams and Jimmy Bettes and Tony Maier.

Read More from Martha Lunken: Unusual Attitudes

Anyway, that afternoon, after landing my 72B back at Lunken, I stopped at Waypoint Aviation for fuel—and a free cup of Graeters ice cream. Teresa Harvey on the desk told me there was a memorial event going on upstairs in the hangar. Owner Mark Davis often loans this outstanding facility for fundraisers, parties, weddings and, yes, funerals. This was a small family-and-friends event for a lady who had learned to fly at Lunken Airport years ago, and although she no longer flew, she always said she would like her memorial held there.

“What’s her name?” I asked, figuring I knew pretty much anybody in that category. She wasn’t sure but suggested I go upstairs.

There were maybe 50 people gathered around a buffet table, telling “Janie” stories and looking at photographs displayed on the walls and laid out on tables. And there was a photo of Janie Pape, 50 years ago, standing in front of my red Cessna 150 trainer at Miss Martha’s Flying School just a short distance from the Waypoint hangar. A lady came over, gracious but obviously wondering who in the hell this stranger was “crashing” the memorial.

“Well, my airplane is being fueled outside, and I heard about this memorial…and the name was familiar. When I saw the picture I realized that, a very long time ago, I taught Janie to fly.”

Her sisters and friends were thrilled somebody from the airport remembered Janie and told me about her very rich life after the “airplane period”—a nurse, forensics expert, artist, photographer and dear friend to so many people.

It was a hot day, and I was tired after aviating all over the state of Ohio, but I couldn’t refuse their insistence I meet Janie’s friends and family, enjoy the buffet, and stay for a short memorial service.

The eulogies were short and sweet, and a number of friends shared their memories of this remarkable woman. Then the lady said the brocade bags at the end of the table contained Janie’s ashes, and anyone who wanted could take one to scatter in a favorite place, such as the nearby trail where some were going to walk.

“Actually,” she said, “Jane’s wish was [for] her ashes [to] be scattered from 2,500 feet over Lunken Airport, but that obviously isn’t possible.”

“Well, yes, actually, it’s quite possible,” I said, explaining that my airplane was sitting on the ramp just below the windows in the room.

I’ve had some good—and some not-so-good—experiences with the dispersement of ashes, so I knew how. We carefully and reverently emptied several bags of ashes into an appropriately flimsy popcorn bag from downstairs, tied it securely on a long string, and I took off with the tower’s permission to climb to 2,500 feet over Lunken Airport. There, with a friend of Janie’s in the right seat, I put the 180 in slow flight with full flaps, opened the window, held the end of the string and threw the bag into the slipstream.

And, again, I marveled at how the circle was unbroken.

This story originally published in the December 2019 issue of Flying Magazine

Martha Lunken is a lifelong pilot, former FAA inspector and defrocked pilot examiner. She flies a Cessna 180 and anything with a tailwheel, from Cubs to DC-3s.

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