In the Museum: A Fleet’s Final Flight

A civilian flight trainer enters the collections.

An emotional Gene Breiner (at lectern, with daughter Joyce and General Jack Dailey, director of the National Air and Space Museum) donated Plane Jane to the Museum this past June in hopes of inspiring future pilots. (Dane Penland)
Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 1)

Six Fleets—including Breiner’s—were sold to the Roosevelt Field aviation school on Long Island, New York. There the airplane was flown by hundreds of students, among them Zack Mosley, creator of the comic strip “Smilin’ Jack.”

Plane Jane was owned by Roosevelt Field until 1942, when all private civilian flight training was prohibited east of the Susquehanna River. From 1942 to 1945, Aircraft Services Consolidated in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, flew it under the government’s Civilian Pilot Training Program.

“I always liked biplanes,” says Breiner. “Two wings seem a lot more sensible. It’s a stable airplane, an ideal training aircraft.”

The Fleet is not without its quirks. “It’s a ground-looper,” says Breiner. “When you fly a Fleet, you’re only one of two persons: You either have or you haven’t ground-looped. I joined the group that has.”

The aircraft is also noisy, sort of a flying John Deere tractor. Breiner made good use of that quality at the Sentimental Journey Fly-in in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, which he attended 25 years in a row. “I’d get up early in the morning, before sunrise, and wipe away the dew,” he recalls. “I’d taxi down that runway, and I’d wait until the sun would just break over the horizon. And I’d take off in the stillness of the morning and fly over the campground and wake everybody up.”

Within a year from the date it was donated, Plane Jane will go on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia, where it will have pride of place as the sole aircraft of the Civilian Pilot Training Program in the Museum’s collection.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus