Goodbye, Silas Hicks
Charlie Kulp bids farewell to his alter ego, the "Flying Farmer."
- By Linda Shiner
- AirSpaceMag.com, March 01, 2008
(Page 3 of 3)
Q&A: And was that your airplane?
Kulp: No. I used to be an FAA airplane inspector. I was an aircraft mechanic but I could also do the annual inspection of an airplane. I used to annual this Cub for the fellow who owned it from 1961 on, so when he told me that he wanted to sell it, my oldest son bought it. I had been trying to get him involved in aviation. I taught both of my boys to fly there at the Flying Circus, but they never did do anything with it, so I gradually bought the airplane away from my oldest son. So it's been in the family since 1972.
Q&A: And is that the same aircraft you fly today?
Kulp: Right. Like I say, I'd been inspecting and licensing the airplane, so I knew the airplane. Years ago, I got a letter from a retired colonel from the Air Force in Texas. He said he went on the Internet to see who owned his airplane that he used to have. And he found out that it was me. I also used to be a private pilot examiner; I could issue a pilot's license. He said that in 1954, I had given him a flight check in that airplane. I was at Hyde field then, in Clinton, Maryland. So I had given him his pilot's license, and he sent me a copy of a page in his logbook with the airplane's N-number with my name signed to it. It's a funny thing. I'd been around this airplane since the '50s and didn't know it. It was really nice of him to send it.
A&S: At the time you were a pilot examiner, could you also give a check flight to your own students?
Kulp: Yes. Except I taught my first wife how to fly, and I would not give her flight check. She was a little upset about it, but I told her every time she made a landin' and she bounced a little bit, she didn't want people to be saying that I had just given her a license. So I sent her to the FAA, and she got her flight check by the federal government.
A&S: How'd she do?
Kulp: Did good. But you know what I mean. If she ever did flub a landing, and all of us do from time to time, they would just say "Well she was just given her license by her husband" and I didn't want that monkey to be on her back.
A&S: Did you enjoy flight instruction?
Kulp: Oh, yes. I loved it very much. But I thought they were throwing too much stuff in there at the same time. When a person was trying to learn how to fly, I thought the best thing was to teach them how to fly, until they got good, and then crank in all the radio, and instruments, and all this stuff in there later.
A&S: I like that idea. Kulp: Well, sure. That's what knocked a lot of young people out of learning to fly. I mean I was teaching kids to fly. But you go to an airport today and the first thing they do is slam ten books up on the counter when you walk in. The kid's already in school. He's had enough of school. And I say the first thing you do is get 'em in the damn airplane.
A&S: Did you like teaching in the Cub? What airplanes did you use for instruction?
Kulp: I taught in many airplanes. I taught in the Aeronca Champion; in the PA-12, the SuperCruiser—that was a good trainer. All of my training was in a tail dragger-type airplane.
A&S: Is that the way to go? If you want to fly a tail dragger, should you learn to fly in a tail dragger?
Kulp: I don't say that. I had a lot of airline pilots who wanted to bring their kids to me, you know, because that's the way they had learned. But by then, we'd gotten into all of this fancy way of teaching, so I told 'em the best thing to do would be to go on and send 'em through the school they've gotta go through, then send 'em to me and I'll check 'em out on a tail dragger.
A&S: And Ken Hyde mentioned that when you were managing airports, there would usually be a number of young people who would work around the place doing maintenance, or even sweeping up, and exchange their work for flying lessons.
Kulp: Yeah, I did some of that. Even then, flying was cheap. When I learned it was about $10 an hour and after the war when I was teaching, it was only $15 an hour, and the people that you got—most of 'em were young people. And young people didn't have much, just like I didn't have much money. And if I could help some of 'em I would.
A&S: Were you also selling rides at the time?
Kulp: Yeah, that's where you got a lot of your students from. I sold rides for $2 a person and about every fourth ride, I'd end up with a student.
A&S: Sounds like a really good time.
Kulp: You were really close to it; you were all of it. Most of the airports now are owned by the state and have an airport manager with six or seven helpers under him. When I was the airport manager, I was the flight instructor, and if they had a restaurant, I cooked the hamburgers, I gassed the airplanes, I worked on the airplanes, and taught people to fly. So there was no money paid out for an airport manager because the airport manager made his money teaching people to fly.