Dover’s First Aero Club

by Harry Heist

This story is from a firsthand account. It is not copyrighted unless noted but we request anyone using this for other than personal use to credit the author and the museum.
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I am the Son of Lt. Col. John R. Tracy. In 1954, I was six years old when my family arrived at Dover AFB from Kadena AFB on Okinawa. My Dad was flying C-54’s but quickly transitioned to C-124’s and then C-133’s retiring in 1966. My love for aircraft and flying has never declined from my days as a young boy sitting in the family car at the end of the road next to the old MARS station watching my Father taxi to the active for his departure! I can still hear the screeching of the brakes on “Old Shaky” that did so no matter how gently they were applied. A quick wave to the crew member scanning from the bubble and with a mighty roar, he was gone!

As the 1950’s soon became the 1960’s I had still never been off the ground! That was until a certain day in, (as best as I can recall), the fall of 1962 or early 1963, when my Dad asked, “Hey Mikey! Wanna go FLYING?” I was already airborne! We expeditiously drove to the base and worked our way out around or behind the old 95th area to a small hanger that held the aircraft born to let me fly! The Ryan Navion!

The pre-flight, engine start, and taxiing to the active was a massive sensory overload for me! That was until he turned onto the active and applied max power! Instantly we were off the ground and climbing to regions never seen by my young eyes! Sensory overload?!?! Oh you betcha! I was my Father’s Son! Born to be a pilot! Born to fly!

Soon after, my Father bought a C-18-S Twin Beech that we flew out of Al Johnson’s crop dusting strip! Dad taught me aerodynamics, fundamentals of flight, navigation and weather allowing me to fly the Beech whenever I could talk my Mother out of the right seat! Finally got my “legal” ticket when I came of age flying as much as possible until diabetes and a couple of heart attacks grounded me forever. No regrets as I’m blessed to have had the many opportunities to fly! More importantly, I will ALWAYS remember the DAFB Aero Club, the Navion, and my Dad for provided me with my introduction to the love of flight!

Best regards;
Michael S. Tracy, CRNA

I just retired from giving clinical anesthesia for the last 37 years.