Monday, June 14, 2010

Chet and Marian Peek

Two lives devoted to each other... and to aviation.

We had a nice visit back on May 25th with Mr. and Mrs. Chet Peek in Newcastle Oklahoma. It is rare to meet such a fine couple. Their unique relationship has always included a mutual love of airplanes. Chet, a noted aircraft historian and restorer, is nearing 90-years old and is a pleasure to be around. Marian, a Master-Gardener in her own right, is also a joy. By the end of our visit, she had loaded us up with a bag-full of plants that Leann has now transplanted to our yard in Texas. The 2+ hour stay was way to short. I told Leann on the way home that I could spend all day with Chet and still not have time to listen enough to his stories and knowledge. Chet was a maintenance engineer during WWII and served in the 8th Air Force. He reminisced about flying home after the war in a B-17. Chet's civilian Engineering career has included trailer manufacturing, the refrigeration business, and several years as a university professor at the University of Oklahoma. Over the years, he has restored many antique airplanes, including a WWI Curtiss Jenny which he literally built up from nearly nothing. He has also authored several books on aviation history, including his latest book on the Standard biplanes to be released very soon. In 2007, Chet was inducted in to the EAA-Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame.

On May 3, 1999 the Peek's hangar was blown away by a violent tornado. Though they lost three of their beloved antique airplanes, tools, cars, and other personal items to that storm, they seem to have taken all in stride. Their re-built hangar is only about 1/3 its original size. But it is enough. The couple spend a lot of time there gardening and working on their projects.

Chet showed us around his very early Taylorcraft model DC-65, which I believe was the 35th one built. This airplane is unique in that it has never been a military airplane. It's metal-spar wing is one of very few that remain. Many DC-65's carried the military O-57 and later, the L-2 designations. Chet's airplane is in the original factory colors, although Chet says the fuselage trim stripe in yellow should be a little wider and extend farther forward onto the boot cowl. At 89 years-old, Chet is still actively flying his Taylorcraft several times a week. He is looking forward to flying it on his 90th birthday in November. Chet is also building a home-built Pietenpol Air Camper, to be powered as the original 1929 design with a Ford Model A engine.

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