History is fascinating by itself, but make it aviation history and you have my full attention. It seems that most of society agrees, as it is often the case where a vintage car/plane/boat gathers all the attention at a particular event. We seem to be a people that yearns for the latest and greatest of everything, but (thankfully) generally takes time to honor a piece of history.
With that said, it should come as no surprise that our 1950 Piper Pacer is a real treasure to me and my family. It has stories to tell and many more stories to write. While it’s not in immediate need of restoration, it’s hard not to find myself daydreaming about the opportunity to restore it to factory paint and features, if only to keep it around for our son and his future family.
But this isn’t just about our airplane. It’s about the integral role vintage aircraft play in today’s aviation world. If you let yourself get caught up in high-tech avionics, drones and other gadgets, you may just miss the magic a simple, classic aircraft brings to the table.
Stories, Inspiration and Pride
Vintage aircraft tell the stories of early engineering wins and designs that changed aviation forever. Those early aircraft companies (Piper, Cessna, Taylorcraft, Stinson, etc.) probably never intended their machines to still be flying some fifty or sixty years later, yet many are. That’s a testament to their design, build quality, maintenance professionals and owners dedicated to keeping them flying.
More importantly, though, vintage aircraft represent the spirit of grassroots aviation. That spirit was alive and well when many of these aircraft were being designed, built and flown. In those uncertain times, pilots and aircraft companies forged onward to give us the designs that have stood the test of time, and influenced the future of aviation.
It would be hard to walk through the vintage parking at a place like Oshkosh or at a local fly-in and not have a big grin on your face the entire time. And nowhere is that spirit more on display than in the owners themselves, because they know the contributions their aircraft have made to history.
New Ownership Options
But vintage aircraft don’t just provide a good story. Without vintage aircraft options, my wife and I likely wouldn’t own an airplane. Aeronca, Taylorcraft, Cessna and Piper models (to name a few) are often priced under $25,000, putting ownership within reach. Even more enticing is the simplicity of these early machines and the impact that has on making most maintenance items affordable.
Indeed, if a pilot is looking to enjoy the benefits of ownership, vintage aircraft offer a pathway to that dream. These new owners will quickly become advocates for the very aircraft that gave them a chance, and ultimately, advocates for grassroots aviation in the process.
Even in their old age, these timeless machines continue to spark new passions and drive engagement in an industry that needs it badly.
Caretakers and Advocates
Many vintage aircraft owners will tell you they’re just the current caretaker of that piece of history, and it’s true. For those of us already in the ownership club, we have a responsibility to keep the airplane from ending up as a pile of parts and to give these aircraft the visibility they deserve among a rush of new technology in the aviation world.
If we all do our part as owners and aviation stewards, these aircraft will be flying well into the future, writing new stories and keeping old tales alive.
In my mind, I’m not sure there’s a better mission to be found.