Fly-In announces annual Flight Training Scholarship

PHOTO PROVIDED From left, Leah Jones and Bob Epting stand next to a Piper Cub.

LOCK HAVEN — In March of 2017, Sentimental Journey, the annual fly-in that celebrates Piper Aircraft Corporation’s heritage in Lock Haven, along with Amy Gesch, Sentimental Journey member and fly-in attendee, established a scholarship to aid those with a desire to learn to fly, in honor of Leah Jones, a former Piper manufacturing employee, ferry pilot, and longtime fly-in attendee.

The annual scholrship, in the amount of $1,000, is open to high school seniors who are going into the field of aviation upon graduation, as well as any high school student age 15 or older who is interested in learning to fly an aircraft. To qualify, they must either be a resident of Pennsylvania, or be a member/child or grandchild of a member of Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven, and reside in the U.S.

“Celebrating and preserving Piper’s history in Lock Haven is the purpose behind the fly-in,” commented Cal Arter, president of Sentimental Journey. “But part of history is that it doesn’t stop being made-the story is being written every day. Even though Piper no longer has facilities in Lock Haven, we have a rich history and we feel it’s only right to make sure tomorrow’s history is as rich as today’s. There’s no better way to do that than to invest in the pilots and mechanics of tomorrow.”

Ed Watson, vicepresident of Sentimental Journey, added, “Leah Jones has been one of our favorite fly-in visitors for years. She lights up like a light bulb when she gets to see young people at the fly-in and when she sees her beloved Cubs come home. She’s an inspiration to us all, and we feel it is a perfect fit to establish this scholarship in her honor.”

Leah Jones, who went by the name Mae Coady, (her middle and maiden names), worked at Piper Aircraft in Lock Haven from 1946-1951. During her time there, she worked in final assembly and ferried dozens of airplanes. She and a group of other Piper ferry pilots, including Bill Sparks, whose book she has brought to the fly-in for years, referred to themselves as the “Herd o’ Turtles,” referencing the modest cruise speeds of the humble Cubs Piper produced at the time.

The first recipient of this scholarship was Tyler Rispoli, of Altoona Area High School. Leah Jones surprised Tyler by personally presenting the award to him at Sentimental Journeys award banquet, held on June 24, 2017. Tyler is attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute.

Interested applicants should call 570-893-4200 or email Applications are due on or before April 30, 2018.

Sentimental Journey is a non-profit organization. Anyone interested in donating to this scholarship, contact us at the above phone number.

Established in 1985, Sentimental Journey sets out to celebrate Piper Aircraft’s history in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Piper moved to Lock Haven from Bradford, Pa. in 1937, still under the name of the Taylor Aircraft Company. Later that year, the company was officially renamed the Piper Aircraft Corporation. The company remained under the guidance of the Piper family until 1969, though the family remained deeply connected to Lock Haven. Under corporate ownership, Piper Aircraft left Lock Haven in 1984 and the fly-in was established the next year to bring former Piper employees and aircraft owners together.

Kim Garlick, executive coordinator of Sentimental Journey, states, “Although we’ve had up to 700 aircraft attend on a good year, these days, the fly-in attracts an average of 250-300 aircraft annually, from as far away as California, Canada and Florida, all coming to Lock Haven to experience the “feel-good” fly-in event and to “kiss the ground the Cub was built on.”