My father's Pilot Log stretches across half a century, from his first solo flight in Alabama to his last flight out of Moffett Field.
You and I might start a diary or journal, lose interest, put it down, lose it entirely and start it anew (in a different form) months or years later. Pilots aren't like that. They keep their log books--always up to date--for a lifetime.
My father had three pilot logs and contained within them are the story of his adult life. Flying, to him, was a love surpassed only by his love for my mother.
His first log book is the one at the back of the group above, topped by the "Texaco Star." (Looks like it might have been a free promotional book, given to him at the airport.) That one contains his record as a student pilot, instructions which began in January 1940 when he was a junior at Auburn University, took a break for the summer of 1940 and resumed in early 1941. He made his first solo March 2, 1941.
Dad's student log shows the training he took to earn his first pilot's license.
His lessons were subsidized by the federal government, he told us, in a program promoted by the wily FDR. The US president knew we were going to war, even if its citizens did not, and he knew we would need pilots.
On the back of this photo my father wrote: "J3 Piper Cub used in training for my private license. Auburn-Opelika Airport, April 1941."
His second log book, the small one with the leather cover, shows all of his flights after he qualified. We can tell from this log, that he took up a J-3 Piper Cub on Saturday, December 6. 1941. The next day, America was at war. 2nd Lt. Chapman had time for just one more civilian flight before he was sent overseas. You can see two-year gap in his log.
He was back in the air in 1944--in a J-3 Cub flown out of the Birmingham airport. He made lots of flights in 1944, working them in even though he was busy training to go back overseas, and oh yes, was courting and marrying my mother. And then, another gap, for most of 1945, when now Capt. Chapman was busy over in the Pacific.
William Ashley Chapman with a Cessna in Wichita, Kansas, 1946.
The log shows, when the war was over and Dad was a civilian again, my mother tolerated his flying through much of 1946. His first job, with Cessna in Wichita, Kansas, made flying a congruous hobby. At least to him.
Then, on August 13, 1946, the entries end. Faye put her foot down and Ash stopped flying. He gave up his first love for her. But he did not forget.
Pilot Log through 1946 and then, suddenly it is 1983.
We know this because on April 20, 1983, the entries resume. Dad doesn't even skip a line in his Pilot Log. He was now 63 years old and had met a friend who owned two planes and was looking for someone to fly with. Mom gave her approval and, after 36 years and eight months, Dad re-qualified as a pilot.
Beginning in 1983, he flew so often he filled the Pilot Log he began in 1941 and began a third one. It was a happy time for him, flying out of NUQ--Moffett Field--once or twice a month with his friends and dropping in for landings at HMB (Half Moon Bay), LVK (Livermore), WVI (Watsonville), SNS (Salinas), and KAPC (Napa) among many other airports.
Dad at Moffett Field, with his friend Ollie Fraser's Cessna. The two of them often flew together in the 1980s and 1990s.
In one of the entries he noted: "Heard AF1 get landing clearance @NUQ. Saw AF1 and AF2 on the apron." Many presidents have landed at Moffett Field.
The entries end in 1993, when he was almost 74. He totaled his lifetime flying hours at 514.4. He quit, he told us, because his hearing was getting bad and he didn't want to make it worse by being around the engine noise.
I found the Pilot Logs in his bureau drawer when he died. He was not a sentimental person and there was nothing remarkable about what he saved. He did keep a log of all the hours and tasks he completed to build our first house. And he kept his Pilot Logs.
My mother saved his love letters. Dad saved his Pilot Logs. Both loves lasted, for each of them, a lifetime.
Dad's fleet of balsa and tissue planes I found in a box in the garage after his death.
Dad, tossing a toy glider into the wind, when he was almost 90. He had stopped flying, but this did not stop his love of flying.
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