The Luscombe Returns to the Sky
By James Grahame
Tom Seibold wrote to tell us about the reintroduction of the Luscombe 8, which was once considered a "sports car" among early 1950s aircraft. His story has a personal connection, too. I'll let him explain:
"For many years, I have had a picture of my father standing by an airplane--his airplane--on a snowy North Dakota day.
I recently came across a story on how the Luscombe-Silvaire Aircraft Company of Riverside, California, is starting to build Luscombe 8s--or at least a plane based on the same airframe--again. Looking at the picture of the plane on the new Luscombe-Silvaire website and comparing it with the one Dad had outfitted with skis in that black and white early-50s photo, it certainly looks to me like an 8/Silvaire...
In our era, few typical folks fly airplanes, let alone own them. But
in the early 1950s, an ambitious farm kid barely out of high school
could save up and buy an airplane--a used one, to be sure, but a fully
enclosed piston prop that you didn't even have to assemble yourself.
According to family lore, Dad was probably about 19 when he bought this plane, which dates the photo above around 1953. He was too young to fight in WW2, but he wanted to fly and got his chance while still a 'hired man' for his older brothers, who had started their own farms.
After the war, civilian aviation was waking up, Americans were hungry for leisure, and Luscombe Airplane Corporation of Dallas, Texas was promoting their 8 series 'Silvaire' with an ad that showed a happy young couple picnicking in the wilderness, along with the headline 'Vacation Every Weekend with Silvaire.'
The only thing I knew about Dad's plane was that it was a Luscombe, and that he sold it for some reason after he got married and started farming. He didn't talk about it much, although I now wish (of course) I'd asked, since he's gone.
A few months ago, perhaps as part of being what can be described as the
very peak of middle age, I felt a stirring to fly recreationally
myself. Talking to a friend who has his license, and reading about the
new light-sport aircraft (LSAs) at Retro Thing and other sites, the
little seed of an idea grew from a passing whim to a sustained vision,
which is why I'm now reading a book to prep for the written exam. (Hey,
one thing at a time.)
Little did I realize, before reading a Plane and Pilot
article, that the Luscombe 8F was considered a "sports car" of small
planes at the time, not to mention one of the most reliable and
lowest-maintenance small planes ever.
The new 8F, now called the SLSA-8 in light-sport form (100 hp engine), is indeed a handsome and classic-looking plane with its silvery unpainted aluminum wings and fuselage. Interestingly, with the 100 hp Continental O-200A power plant, it is also small enough and light enough to fall under the new light-sport regulations.
If I do end up with a pilot's license, it would be great to try one of Luscombe-Silvaire's 8-series re-creations to feel what Dad experienced. Even during my short time in the milieu of recreational flying, I can see there's a real fraternity among private pilots supporting the appreciation and preservation of classic airplane designs that deserve it.
How Dad came to select that plane, and where he bought it from (very likely used) will remain family mysteries. However, perhaps he simply fell for the romance of the Luscombe ads promoting their airplane as a date car -- a chick magnet. After all, he used to fly to see his future wife--my mother--at her family's farm just an hour away by car. When he got the girl and started his own farm, the plane the new Luscombe company describes as 'fast, affordable, sexy and tough,' got sold, probably to finance a tractor or a quarter-section of the farmland he'd used as an airstrip." ---Tom Seibold (Merriam, Kansas)