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William “Lefty” Leftwich
Often times I’m asked, “what kind of people fly these barely airplanes?”
These pics are of “Lefty” Leftwich flying on his 99th birthday.
Below is a very brief history of one of our treasured military aviators as told to me by his son “Bill”.
He was a flying boat pilot during WWII, flying the mighty Boeing 314 from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. He would then transfer to a Navy Martin Mariner and continue to fly all over the pacific, landing at small atoll islands, delivering supplies to the troops as far as New Zealand and Australia. Today, at age 99, he is very likely the only flying boat pilot still alive.
Lefty settled in as a Pan Am B-727 Captain, flew Pan Am's IGS, the Inter German Service, for 17 years, based in Berlin. When he retired at 60 in 1977 he moved from Berlin, Germany, to McLouth, Kansas, and bought the property at the edge of town which had a 1,600' runway attached to it.
Lefty and his son Bill often attended the Sun 'N Fun fly in's together in Lakeland and he eventually bought a single seat Quicksilver from Lyle Byrum in the early 1980's which he flew from his McLouth airfield. It is now called "Threshing Bee Airport" (TBA) and is on the aeronautical charts, just north of Lawrence, Kansas.
When a friend wrecked his single seat Quicksilver, he bought a used C-172 which he flew for more than 18 years. He loved flying the Cessna all around the country but realized one day that it was too much for him to safely handle. This is when he called Bill and asked to build him a two place machine. He chose the Sprint II.
“He's had an interesting flying career but said he's had the most fun flying the Quicksilvers. When he took off last week at age 99 and climbed out, I knew exactly where he was going. He flew a SE heading, directly to where his grandmother had a farm on the south side of McLouth. He wanted to see for himself, one last time, the tree he played in as a small boy. When ever he visited his grandmother, he would climb up this tree where he had a board set up with nails in it. These were the "controls" for his airplane.” When he returned to TBA, he made a perfect landing and taxied back to the hangar. He said to me, "He was done flying", but, he's told me that before.......