2012-07-26 / Features

‘Dad’s plane’ takes to the sky

Story and photos by Thomas Reznich


READY TO TAKE OFF Bill Spencer of Houghton Lake “hand prop’s” his 1947 Luscomb 8A airplane for his first flight with a passenger during the EAA Fly-in at the Houghton Lake State Airport July 7. Operating the controls during the engine start-up is his son Chuck and holding on to the tail of the plane is his wife Sue. Pictured in the background at left is Spencer’s other airplane, a 1956 Tri Pacer. READY TO TAKE OFF Bill Spencer of Houghton Lake “hand prop’s” his 1947 Luscomb 8A airplane for his first flight with a passenger during the EAA Fly-in at the Houghton Lake State Airport July 7. Operating the controls during the engine start-up is his son Chuck and holding on to the tail of the plane is his wife Sue. Pictured in the background at left is Spencer’s other airplane, a 1956 Tri Pacer. It took a couple more years to complete than Bill Spencer, 53, of Houghton Lake thought it would, but on July 1, 2012, he took his first flight in the restored 1947 Luscomb 8A which he had his first airplane ride in back in the late 1950s.

Back then, the plane belonged to his father, Charlie Spencer, who owned a farm near Yale. In 1963, when Bill was five, his father sold the plane, and it had a profound effect on him. “You would think I wouldn’t remember much about it at that age, but it was like I lost a brother,” said Spencer, who began searching for the plane after earning his private pilot’s license in 1998.


UP SHE GOES! (Right) Members of Bill Spencer’s family watch as he takes off with his granddaughter Emily from the grass strip at Houghton Lake State Airport July 7. Pictured watching the take-off (foreground, left to right) are his son, Chuck Spencer of Canton, Chelsie Preston of Livonia, granddaughter Elizabeth Rozumny, 9 and daughter Jaclyn Rozumny of Yale. UP SHE GOES! (Right) Members of Bill Spencer’s family watch as he takes off with his granddaughter Emily from the grass strip at Houghton Lake State Airport July 7. Pictured watching the take-off (foreground, left to right) are his son, Chuck Spencer of Canton, Chelsie Preston of Livonia, granddaughter Elizabeth Rozumny, 9 and daughter Jaclyn Rozumny of Yale. Tracking the plane through a number of owners, Spencer finally found it in Florida, but had to wait until April 2009 before being able to buy it and bring it to his hangar at the Houghton Lake State Airport. In an interview with the Resorter in September 2009, Spencer said he hoped to have the plane flying by spring 2010, but like most airplane restoration projects taken on by owners who also have full-time jobs, it took a little longer than he expected.


GETTING READY FOR THE FIRST RIDE Spencer and his wife Sue get granddaughter Emily, 5, belted in as she puts her headset on. Emily was the first person to get a ride in the newly restored airplane. GETTING READY FOR THE FIRST RIDE Spencer and his wife Sue get granddaughter Emily, 5, belted in as she puts her headset on. Emily was the first person to get a ride in the newly restored airplane. Among the tasks Spencer had to complete to get the Luscomb back in the sky were to fix damage to one of the wings and one of the plane’s gas tanks. He also had to paint the wing to match the color scheme which had been chosen by the previous owner, who began the restoration project.

Spencer fabricated a new cowl for the airplane, starting from flat aluminum, and also installed a new windshield and new seats. He found that the plane also needed new control cables for the ailerons and elevator. The plane’s 65 horsepower Continental engine (which gives it a cruise speed between 90 and 100 mph) only required new spark plugs to be ready to go.

All the work paid off for Spencer, who said his first flight in the Luscomb went better than he expected. “It feels like that plane was made for me,” said Spencer, who added that flying the plane brings back memories of his father. “It feels like he’s flying there with me sometimes,” he said.

On July 7, members of Spencer’s family, including his children and grandchildren, were at the Houghton Lake State Airport for the EAA Fly-in, as well as a chance to get one of the first rides in his newly restored Luscomb. The first ride went to granddaughter Emily Rozumny, 5, of Yale.

See the Resorter’s 2009 story on the plane’s restoration, “Dad’s Plane,” on the Resorter’s web site, www.houghtonlakeresorter.com/news/2009-09-03/features/040. html

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2012-07-26 digital edition

Poll

Were you able to finish your fall yard work before the first snowfall?