Long Life to You My Friend

This is the panel of the Cessna 150 in which I had my primary flight training.
This is the panel of the Cessna 150 in which I had my primary flight training.

May 1, 1993: I climbed into a spritely Cessna 150 named “Old Gomer” with a flight examiner. We flew for an hour, testing my skills and knowledge. When we were done, we parked the airplane, then went into the airport so he could issue me a temporary airman certificate. I was a pilot, the first of my flight instructor’s first class to become a pilot.

Next up for his check ride was Dub Tolliver. He bought a Cessna 172 near the end of his training, so he tested in it, and he too got his airman certificate that day, but he and I both got most of our training in Old Gomer. I hung around, and after we both had our “license to learn” in hand, we sat and talked about flying with our examiner.

A couple of days later I flew my first passenger, the late Kathy Godfrey. We had fun.

Dub Tolliver
Dub Tolliver

That weekend, Dub called me to say that a pilot from our airport had put his airplane into a field near the Canadian River 10 miles northeast due to an engine failure, and would I like to fly over there and see it. Of course, I did, and Dub let me fly his 172, which was new to me.

As the months went by, Dub and I did a lot of flying together. One time we flew two 172s to a spot south of town and flew in formation for a while, which was even more fun than it sounds.

On another occasion, he and I formed up and stayed in formation all the way down to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, Texas, where a group of Ada pilots got a tour of Fort Worth Air Traffic Control Center and the tower and Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport, an experience much harder to come by in the the post-9/11 world.

Dub bought two more airplanes as more time went by, a twin-engine Piper, and a Bellanca. I got to fly both of them once or twice, and the time I flew his Bellanca, it was from the left seat, which for some reason (hopefully not my flying skills) made him very nervous.

On another occasion, we flew together to Tulsa where his Piper was being repaired. I left him to fly it home and took his 172 home for him.

Dub had the odd habit of wearing an orange hoodie when he flew. I guess he thought he’d be easier to spot if he had to put down in the middle of nowhere. Dub also loved flying really low, and his favorite thing to do in his airplanes was buzz the Canadian River with the wheels about six feet above the water.

Dub never really got comfortable with the Piper twin – the axiom in aviation is that if you don’t train in your twin constantly, it’s twice as likely to kill you as your single. He eventually sold it.

Dub died Monday after a battle with cancer. He was 68.

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2 Comments

  1. Sad and beautiful. I remember flying in a Cessna 172 when I was eleven. I longed to be a pilot. My mom married an eye doctor who shot my dreams of flying to hell. Something similar happened to Jim Bob Walton.

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  2. I just had a flashback. Michael Z and I had gone to school together in my car one day. During my last class of the day, a dude in the next seat (total stranger) drops a pick up line that I could not refuse. He asked me what I was doing after class. I had never spoken a word to this dude btw. I said that I was meeting my roommate and going home. He asked me if I wanted to go flying. Idiot that I was I exclaimed “YES!” without a second thought. I met up with Michael and gave him the keys and told him to drive home. Only a cross-eyed chick would give a cross-eyed dude keys and tell him to drive himself home. I pretty much abandoned Michael with my car and took off with who the hell ever he was. As I was riding in a car with a total stranger I decided that now would be a good time to be a bit nervous. Especially because we didn’t go directly to an airport, but to his house. Thankfully, he wasn’t dangerous, but I was too nervous to have a good time. He borrowed a plane that was on Fort Sill at Red Leg Flying Club or some name like that. We flew around Lawton in a Cessna 150. Michael and I both made it home alive no worse for the wear. But that was a dumb thing to do.

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