Piper Museum

Trip Start Jul 20, 2002
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Trip End Sep 05, 2002


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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Part of what I like most about road trips are the mistakes and accidents that lead to something you did not plan on or expect to see. Case in point, our impromptu trip to the Piper Aviation Museum in Loch Haven, Pennsylvania. En route from Centralia to wherever it was we were heading (which was actually Ft. Wayne, Indiana, for a Transformers convention in a few days), we decided to search for a place to eat and sleep along Highway 20 through Pennsylvania. We ended up in Loch Haven and thought it looked nice enough, but unfortunately, we rolled into town late, and pretty much every restaurant we could find was closed. However, we did stumble across a flyer for a Piper Museum at the municipal airport in town, apparently the birthplace of Piper.
 
Ellie is a sort-of pilot, in that she's a member of Civil Air Patrol and goes on regular search and rescue flights around the New York area, though never as the actual pilot of the plane. Still, she loves aviation stuff, as do I, so whenever we travel, we hit any and pretty much every aviation or aerospace related museum and attraction across which we stumble. So something like the Piper Museum, a small museum in a small town with a small airport, was right up our alley. A bit further up the road, we finally found a motel and an open restaurant, called it a night, and prepared for the Piper Museum and a picnic at the lake the next day.
 
Piper began his aviation career in 1929, in nearby Bradford, PA, when he purchased a stake in the Taylor Brothers Aircraft Corporation. It was, by all accounts, not the greatest time to be investing in something as high end as an airplane company, what with the Great Depression suddenly kicking America into a tailspin. But he stuck it out, and during the late 1930s and early 1940s, the recovery of the United States along with the outbreak of WWII caused a substantial uptick int he demand for light aircraft the like sof which Piper was producing. A fire in 1937 detsroyed the factory, so Piper uprooted and established itself in Loch Haven. Piper sold thousands of its signature Cub to the US military during WWII, where they were used for flight training, medical evacuation, reconnaissance, and artillery spotting.

After the war, the demand for recreation aircraft skyrocketed, or whatever it is small aircraft do (I would guess maybe you don't want them to skyrocket, as the end result of that is usually an explosion and a tiny parachute popping out to let your cardboard tube drift gracefully back down to earth, or in the case of my rocketry experience, into a nearby tree from which rocket retrieval was nigh impossible). Piper remained at the forefront of the industry, along with competing company Cessna,  until the rise of the private jet age. Piper's current production facility is located in Vero Beach, Florida, with the museumr emaining at the airport in Loch Haven to commemorate Piper's legacy in that town.

The museum turned out to be pretty cool. definitely a nice accidental find, and a funw ay to spend a morning. A few bucks for admission gets you into a big room stuffed with relics and models of the history of Piper aviation and the Golden era of private aviation adventures (around World War II). A Realistic tape recorder from the 1970s provides running narration as you tour the exhibition, and then you get to go outside to the museum hangar and poke around a bunch of cool old airplanes while pilots land and take-off from the runway in the front.

After the museum, we found a spot on the shores of Loch Haven and ate sandwiches while a group of kids rode their dirt bikes down a dock and into the lake, right in front of a "No Swimming" sign. Such youthful disregard for cumbersome restrictions brightened an already sunny day. When I was little and first learning to ride a bike, the bike I was using was way too big, thus making it hard to stop without falling on my side. My solution? No problem. I just rode the bike to the end of the street, down a hill, and plowed into a pond.
 
Sandwiches consumed, I thought it was high time I unstrapped the bike from the back of the car and got it wet.
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