Non-sked researcher Alan Bender shares insights

Professor Alan Bender sporting a Panama-style hat sits across the table from Gaye Lyn. A painting of bright yellow lemons and fruit hangs over the table in their booth.

Non-sked researcher Alan Bender, an ERAU Professor, provides insight into VAE 1945 business climate

In April 2018, Steve Bobinsky, Executive Director of Philanthropy Development, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, recommended I contact non-sked researcher Alan Bender.  Almost 30 years an instructor of ERAU’s myriad subjects within their unique Worldwide structure, Professor Bender seems a “must meet” for me because of his non-sked era independent research. When Steve and I finally get together at the ERAU Prescott campus in June, 2018, I am en route to meet Professor Bender at his home in Ashland, OR.

I know nothing about your father’s airline, but I am delighted that you are coming to visit.

The lead up to our meet-and-greet is two telephone calls and numerous emails. Each of the calls  is of 1+hour duration that I can only describe as ricochet conversations.  The man is an encyclopedia of aviation history and brimming with enthusiasm.  I am convinced that meeting this non-sked researcher Alan Bender is a necessity. His 30+ year professorial tenure is impressive enough. But his in-depth knowledge of and passion for the non-sked era of aviation fascinates me. I assure him his 30,000-ft level perspective of that era will greatly enhance my understanding of the climate in which my Dad’s airline operated. That is, indeed, the case.

Our 30+ emails cover unexpected topics

Between April 23 and June 19, our 30+ email exchanges cover a lot of ground. Alan shows me where to plumb in-depth records of the CAB and introduces me to legendary Transocean Air Lines (of which I know nothing). He reengages my memory of a favorite movie and music theme by sending a link to The High and the Mighty trailer. He strengthens my understanding of some nasty media and government headwinds battled by Dad’s and every other non-sked carrier. Por ejemplo:

Death Rides the Bargain Air Lines. Headline screams across a drawing of an airliner crashed so deeply into the ground that only its tail survives.
From Coronet Magazine, May 1951. An article warning readers away from the “deadly” nonscheduled airline flights.

Our first meet-and-greet…a delightful story.

Perched above a lake as blue as the sky and smooth as glass...with the hood and cab-over of Gracie, my RV, in the foreground.
What a view. The Point RV Park at Emigrant Lake near Ashland, OR. Spectacular and quiet.

Alan and his wife Davida live in Ashland Oregon, a destination well worth a visit. Their home gives a magnificent sense of the city’s historic architecture.  Alan’s collection of photographs and memorabilia that festoon the walls tells more of the story.  And Alan’s running commentary fills in lively anecdotes.

The entire day rewarded every mile of the trip. Plus Gracie & I got to perch ourselves for three nights above tranquil Emigrant Lake just outside Ashland at The Point RV Park.

We brunch, we talk, we dine – and laugh a lot

Morning Glory Restaurant vibrates with color just like its namesake. What a treat. Alan introduces it as “our ‘world famous’ breakfast/lunch place” and it lives up to his moniker! I attempt to convince the owner, Patty Groth, to open in Santa Fe – to no avail.  (I only just learned that the Morning Glory is For Sale. Ashland’s loss unless some equally fine chef comes along and loves the place like Patty does!)

An “introduction” to David Stringer, aviation writer

Being in Alan’s home-office leaves me wanting more time to explore not only his research, but his research methods. In advance, he gathered many non-sked articles including a 3-part series written by David Stringer, a British aviation writer. Alan encourages me to introduce myself to David who is also speaking at the Airliners International  2018 Convention in a few weeks. I do so – and have benefit of contact with David afterwards.

And then…the good Professor plays tour guide

In his first emails after I leave Ashland, Alan points me in two great directions along my route. The first is Burney Falls, CA. These photos cannot possibly do it justice. To get up so close makes it wondrous. 

Gracie gives me freedom to follow Alan’s suggested route

Driving to Alan’s second suggested location, Gracie and I spend 4 days nestled in tall pines at Little Bear RV ParkBlairsden, CA. Here I put finishing touches on a Veterans Air presentation for D.C., grinning the entire time at the freedom and spontaneity Gracie adds to my project.

Thank you, Alan, for playing tour guide – not to mention for our special visit! I learned a lot and greatly appreciate your time and encouragement.

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