- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) - Cecil Ingram was 10 days past his 16th birthday when he flew an airplane solo for the first time.

“I walked home, and everybody I saw on the street, I told everybody I’d flown an airplane,” Ingram recalled. “I was so proud of myself.”

The Amarillo Globe-News (https://bit.ly/1unE3cC ) reports the now-89-year-old Ingram piloted his final flight Wednesday from Dalhart to Amarillo in a 1946 ERCO Ercoupe he donated on arrival to Texas Air & Space Museum at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.

The Ercoupe is an easy plane to fly and many people, including seniors, trained on it, Ingram said. It was billed as the safest plane built at the time, Ingram said.

“And I believe it still is,” he said. “It was way ahead of its time.”

Safe is a relative term when it comes to flying, Ingram said.

“Flying is, let me put it this way: In some ways it’s pure boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror,” he said.

Ingram’s fascination with aviation began when he was young and outlasted his childhood.

“When I was 4 years old, (Charles) Lindbergh had done his thing, and everybody was talking about Lindbergh, and that was my hero,” Ingram said.

In May 1927, Lindbergh, nicknamed “Lucky Lindy,” became famous after making the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris, a distance of nearly 3,600 miles, in his plane “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

After a stint in the Navy, Ingram attended Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the GI Bill. He received mechanic rating and flight instructor credentials and was working on learning airport management when he saw a card on the bulletin board in 1948 that would change his life.

“Most of the job opportunities were through the school,” he said. “Swift Ingram, who is no relation, and Hubert Koehler were starting a flying school with three Piper Cubs in Dalhart, Texas, and needed someone who could work as a mechanic, a flight instructor and a ground instructor. I did them all.”

Through the years, Ingram remained close to aviation. He opened Airport Cafe in Dalhart, ran a flight school and owned a crop dusting service he started with money loaned to him by a former boss.

“Cecil had . started the spraying business, and he wanted to buy a sprayer from a fellow who said ‘You don’t have enough experience, I’m afraid something’s going to happen to you,’” said Ron Ferniuk, president of Texas Air & Space Museum, “(but) Cecil was innovative; he went and got a life insurance policy, brought it to the guy, handed him the policy, said, ‘If anything happens to me, it’ll be taken care of.’

“He told him to take the plane.”

Flying was a way for Ingram to get away from worries on the ground.

“I’ve always enjoyed flying. . In a way it’s kind of an escape from reality,” he said, “like stepping into a different dimension. And it’s really hard to explain, but it’s totally a different world.”

Age and health problems have started to take a toll on Ingram. He had a heart attack in 1994 and lost vision in his left eye after suffering a detached retina in 1997.

“All pilots are supposed to have a medical certificate to make their pilot license valid. . If you fail it, you’re through. So, I didn’t take the last one,” Ingram said Wednesday. “I’m on my third pacemaker and I don’t think they would approve pacemakers, so I didn’t go back. Since this is my last (flight), I can tell you that.

“I’m not trying to break any records. I love airplanes and I’d just like to see that one (the ERCO Ercoupe) have a good home.”

The Ercoupe is below the weight threshold for a pilot to be medically cleared to fly, Ingram said.

“The more important part of this airplane is Cecil Ingram’s history,” Ferniuk said. “The airplane is a catalyst to talk to people about that history.”

The plane will be used in an educational and inspirational context, Ferniuk said.

“For younger kids, we can put them in the airplane and let them touch the controls, imagine themselves flying the plane,” he said. “We can also tell people, you know, any airplane you see in the museum, people started in something small like that to learn to fly.”


Information from: Amarillo Globe-News, https://www.amarillo.com

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