Flying With Dad: Susan's Memories

Susan's story as told to AOPA.

Photo courtesy of Susan Johnson

My Dad, Bill Colby, passed away from heart disease when I was 15. He retired from Hollywood where his business encompassed the creation of feather fans, boas and costumes for movie stars in the vaudeville era. He did work for Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Lucille Ball, the Ziegfeld Follies and many other productions. He and my mom were private pilots. They retired to raise a family, left Hollywood and bought a 360 acre ranch in the 1950s, located in the Moreno Valley, near Riverside, CA. 

Before the existence of the FAA and precisely regulated flying, my parents had a 1946 Ercoupe which they flew from their dirt airstrip on our ranch. My parents occupied the front seats in the Ercoupe. They put my sister and I in the small baggage compartment in the rear, and off we would go, from our ranch to the neighboring ranches and friends with which he had business ventures. My sis was 6 to 8 years old and I was 3 to 6 in those days.  

On one flight to Glenn Ivy Hot Springs, we were surprised to see a young handsome actor drying himself off. My Dad introduced us kids to him, Ronald Reagan! 

Flying with my dad is a distant memory that still makes my eyes water. The dormant memories came back to life when "the itch" made me get my private pilot license in my mid-40s. I own a Cessna 150 Aerobat and have bought into a small remote airport property near Lake Chelan, Washington. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to fly a 1946 Ercoupe just like my dad's. When those tires touched down with that little soft chirping sound, the same sound from my childhood, I remembered everything, and the tears flowed. My dad and his Ercoupe are two of the sweetest things in this life. 

Thanks for the memories Dad!

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