By Dewey Elsik
I began flying in the early ’80s and my first airplane was a Piper PA-28-140 Cruiser. I loved that well-built aircraft. It took me all the way through my commercial and instrument ratings. As is usually the case, it was never fast enough. I ended up selling it and have gone through several Bellanca Super Vikings over the past 30 years, and also rebuilt a Pitts S1C. I fell in love with tube and fabric having flown and owned these aircraft over the years.
The time came to teach my two sons, Ryan and Cooper. The Bellanca would be an acceptable aircraft for instruction, but I believe that seat-of-the-pants, stick-and-rudder tailwheel aircraft teach skills that I wanted my children to have. Jeff Perkins, who is pictured flying my PA-12 on Page 13, is my son’s instructor. We believe that there are skills that a tailwheel aircraft teaches that have the potential to save your bacon, so to speak. One aspect is that you fly the aircraft from the time you pull it out of the hangar until you put it back in the hangar. A tailwheel pilot flies the aircraft, the aircraft does not fly him or her. Incidentally, Jeff was the March 2020 cover of PIPERS with his PA-16.
We sold our recent Bellanca and began a search for a suitable trainer. I was looking for a PA-12 but could not find one that had the original engine and was basically stock. I looked at PA-18s, PA-16s, and Clippers. I just could not find a 12. We decided to just go look at a Cessna 150 that was for sale in College Station, Texas. It was a Sunday morning and we were on the road when I received a notice on Facebook Marketplace of a PA-12 in Abilene. I called the seller and immediately turned the truck around and headed toward Abilene. We arrived and met one of the owners who was partnered in N3218M. I asked him why he was selling the aircraft and was told that his partner in the plane had recently passed away. Being that the tailwheel community is really a small one, I asked him if he knew a gentleman named Don Bledsoe, who was also from Abilene and owned a tailwheel. He advised me that Don was his partner. Right then and there all the pieces came together for me. Don was the father of a very good friend of mine. That alone sealed the deal. I knew that the PA-12 was well taken care of and now it had additional value. We agreed on a purchase price and I put a deposit down on the aircraft. On the way home, I posted a picture of N3218M on my Facebook page. Almost immediately Don’s daughter wrote me asking where I got the picture. I told her that I had just bought N3218M. I was greeted with approval and confidence that the aircraft would continue on the tradition of flying and teaching my children to fly.
I love this aircraft. It is extremely simple to maintain compared to a turbocharged retractable. We found several things such as the trim jack screw and lower rudder control yoke that were in need of replacement during the most recent annual. The aircraft had been owned by an A&P for most of its recent life in dry West Texas so it was in good shape otherwise.
I have added full four-point harnesses in the front and the back. The only negative thing I have to say about the plane is it’s difficult to get in the front seat — maybe if I were 30 years younger — but I don’t get much front seat time. That’s why I bought it. I am glad I get to continue the legacy of aviation through my children.