Galen Lillethorup's Aviation Story



Galen Lillethorup's Cessna 172G - N3650L

       The "N Number" is pronounced as:  "3650 Lemma"  The N is never used in the USA when you announce it on an aircraft radio. 

My Aviation History

By Galen Lillethorup

       OK, Keith ... you've asked me to do this several times, so I apologize for not answering you sooner.

       Like most people who fly, I wanted to do it all of my life.  I built stick and tissue airplanes at a very early age ... I can remember building in the fifth grade, maybe earlier.  The first book I remember reading in grade school, kindergarten or first grade, was "Pilot Small and his Little Airplane."  (And some 70 years later, I looked it up on and bought a copy!)

       My parents bought my brother and me an already-built "gas" model when I was about in the seventh grade.  It was a very well built Scientific Mercury, approximately. 6' span.  The airframe was good, the engine was horrible.  It was a Sky Chief, cast iron, with the points out in the open where they could get nice and greasy.  My dad was a Saint ... so many times he'd drive me out to Benson Park and wait patiently while I flipped the prop on that Sky Chief.
       When I was in the eight grade (1944-'45) I'd ride my bike down to what is now Eppley and sweep out hangars and shine PT-19's.  I'd do the same thing on Saturday mornings.  At Noon on Saturday, I'd get one dollar and a ride in a J-3.  This was at a time when there weren't too many people, let alone kids, who had actually been in a "real airplane."
       I was one of those "airport bum" kids.  I'd hang around the old Clear Ridge airport (72nd and Crown Point, where Sorensen Plaza is now) and wear my best "please give me a ride, Mister" look.  Oddly enough, they sometimes did give me a ride.  This couldn't happen today, because pilots would be afraid of being sued.  But in the 1940's, no one thought about suing people.
       I didn't get around to taking flying lessons until I was chartering quite a bit while working in television news.  Returning to Omaha one night, the pilot let me handle the controls.  I was hooked.  And because I still had some GI bill remaining that could be applied to flying lessons, I started right away.  My log books say I soloed Cessna 140 #77047 on June 6, 1957.

       That first solo was definitely not routine.  In 1957, Air Force B-47's from Lincoln quite regularly made GCA approaches to Omaha.  When this happened, it was normal for the tower to say something like "attention all aircraft operating in the vicinity of Omaha Municipal Airport.  Air Force Baker 47 now in procedure turn northwest of the field enroute to low altitude simulated approach.  Be alert to observe this aircraft."


       On my solo day, there had been no such announcement (at least neither my instructor nor I heard one.)  So, after the instructor got out of the 140 and turned me loose, I took off. 

       I was still over the runway when the tower said "Cessna 047, make immediate 360 to the left.  B-47 now approaching the runway from the North."  That got my attention, so I made an immediate turn ... too immediate and too tight as it turns out ... because about the time I was ready to complete the 360, there was this beautiful bomber heading directly at me.  The tower screamed "another 360," and I turned even faster than I did the first time.
       I completed the second 360 and made my first solo landing.  The instructor ran up, opened the door, said "go around two more times."  Then he slammed the door and walked away so I had no choice but to make two more landings, shaking knees and all.
       I finally bought my own airplane, a 1966 Cessna 172 G Model, in 1971.  When I went out to the airport to pick it up, I had never flown an airplane with a nose wheel, which is just the opposite experience of most pilots because most have never flown a tail dragger.  Ownership of 3650Lima  was a partnership thing with Joe Patrick, a sportscaster friend.  When Joe sold his share, I got another partner and kept that same wonderful airplane for 33 years.  We paid $7,000 for it in 1971 and sold it for $42,000 in 2004.  Those numbers sound good, but to anyone who's ever had to pay hangar rent, get annual inspections, pay for major overhauls, etc., I would not recommend aircraft ownership as an investment!
       I did finally get an instrument rating in 1989, and in the process, became fascinated with the ADF and NDB approaches.  To the amazement of my instructor and the flight test examiner, I aced the NDB approach part of the test.  But I was really into that (now totally obsolete!) instrument, so much that I actually wrote a little book, "A guide to understanding ADF navigation and NDB instrument approaches."  AOPA Pilot magazine gave it a very favorable review, which I treasured because it appeared right next to a review of "Ernest K. Gann's Flying Circus."  Those two works are nowhere comparable, but I did like the thought that we were mentioned on the same page.
       I miss flying and owning an airplane.  Unless you can use an airplane for business, ownership makes zero sense financially.  But it was a great feeling to know that it was just sitting there in a hangar, waiting for you to wake it up, pat it on its nose and go bore holes in the sky.
       This is probably more than you asked for Keith, but there ... I've finally answered your request.
       Galen Lillethorup

      I publish Metro Area R/C Flying to make a central web site for all the area R/C clubs, not to replace individual club sites, but to tie all of them together and promote growth and interaction between clubs. The most important service of the web site is to post the Metro Area Schedule. The schedule lists all the events for all the clubs in one location so that R/C flyers can see what events are available in the area and plan ahead. I believe it will also help the area clubs to work out their schedules so that a club event, will not conflict, with another club's event. The next most important service is to provide a Page that has maps to all the events, meetings, dinners and parties. Right after that comes the Newsletter Page which lists club newsletters. Reading other club newsletters lets members see what others are offering in the area that they are interested in and promotes interaction between clubs.  This is your web site, if you would like to show-off your newest plane, or share an experience, you can E-Mail pictures and articles to me at:  There’s an Email Link on every page.