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Fourth-Gen Pilot Solos in Great-Grandfather's Airplane


Tanya Brown
Tanya Brown after soloing in her great-grandpa's 1936 Taylor J-2 Cub.

Tanya Brown
Tanya and her dad, Tom, fly in a friend's airplane.

Tanya Brown
Tanya's first solo made her a fourth-generation pilot.

November 29, 2012 - For Tanya Brown, EAA 1103125, it was never a question of if but when she would learn how to fly. After all, her great-grandfather Elmore was a pilot. His son, Tanya's grandfather Richard, flew for a living and owns an air strip. And Richard's son, Tanya's father Tom, has been a pilot for more than 40 years.

Last week on Thanksgiving Day, Tanya, 27, successfully soloed to become the first fourth-generation pilot in the flying Brown family. The plane she flew made the flight even more special; it was the 1936 Taylor J-2 Cub owned more than 70 years ago by her late great-grandfather, whom she affectionately calls "Grandpa Brownie."

Tanya soloed from the dirt strip at her grandpa's Flying Apple Ranch in Lockwood, California. She was thrilled with the accomplishment. "It's hard to put into words," she said. "All I could think about was Grandpa Brownie, who was near and dear to me. It gave me a huge sense of pride to do it, and when I landed, the look on my grandpa's face was priceless." Admittedly nervous before the flight, she made six more takeoffs and landings before the day was over.

According to Richard, EAA 514333, his dad bought the Taylor J-2 from a Stanford professor in July 1940. In November 1941 - just a month before Pearl Harbor - he sold it to a dealer in Palo Alto, then went on to fly as an instructor for the Army Air Corps in the 1940s. Elmore also delivered pursuit planes for the Allied war effort.

Richard, who flew for the California Highway Patrol, retired about 22 years ago and has logged more than 15,000 flight hours.

After Grandpa Brownie passed away in 1996 at the age of 84, Richard found his J-2 logbook. Tom, EAA 527548, did some investigating and discovered the aircraft was still being flown near Dallas, Texas. Richard mailed the logbook to the owner and asked about buying the airplane, but it wasn't for sale. About five years later, two more logbooks - from the J-2's original owner - were located and Richard sent them down to the current owner in Dallas, asking again if the plane was available.

This time it was, so Richard bought it sight unseen and trucked it back to the Flying Apple Ranch a few months later.

The Taylor J-2, predecessor to the Piper J-3 Cub, is powered by a four-cylinder, 40-hp Continental A-40-4. It was designed without brakes, stalls out around 30 mph, and has a top speed of about 75 mph - but that may be stretching things, according to Richard. "If you hold your mouth right and lie a little bit, you might get 65 out of it," he joked. List price in 1936 was $1,490. When he acquired the plane Richard replaced the tail skid with a tail wheel and installed an airspeed indicator and other updates.

Tanya flew with her dad and grandfather for as long as she could remember. When she turned 14, Richard urged her to take up flight lessons, so she started in 1999.

Following one particular takeoff - where the plane swerved off-center - Tanya says she became somewhat fearful and figured that maybe flying wasn't for her. So, she stopped flight lessons, graduated high school, and became a registered nurse. It wasn't until this past spring when Tanya became determined to pick up where she left off and start flight lessons again. She got the Sporty's Learn to Fly course and scored a 95 on the FAA written exam. After about eight hours of dual instruction, she was ready to solo.

Tanya plans to continue working toward her private pilot certificate, aiming for an August 2013 checkride. After that she will likely fly recreationally, and has expressed an interest in exposing others to aviation through the Young Eagles program. She, Dad, and Grandpa are also discussing a trip to Oshkosh for AirVenture 2013. Along with the J-2, the current family fleet includes a Cessna 180, an RV-6, and a replica Curtiss Pusher.

"I can't say how thankful I am to have my great grandfather, grandpa, and dad in my life to be such strong influential role models," Tanya said. "Their craft as pilots is something that I have looked up to and admired my whole life, and the happiness I feel carrying on that tradition is hard to harness and put into words.

"The tradition in our family will hopefully be kept alive forever."


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