New Exhibit Lands at the Museum
by Lela Emmons
July 21st was an eventful day at the museum when Jerry Wilson arrived with his small one-person airplane. He didn’t land like a daredevil pilot on the back field, but instead towed the plane with his pick-up through the gate. There was very little weight on the back wheel of the plane, and it could be easily lifted onto the bed of the truck and tied in. Once the wings were folded in, it was ready to be towed down the road.
With a lot of figuring and discussion, the museum staff rolled it into place and hoisted it up using aircraft cable and two come-a-longs. The plane, small as it is, only weighs 480 pounds and the cable Mr.Wilson provided can carry up to 3,900 pounds. The plane is a home-built experimental airplane, and it says clearly on the instrument panel that the plane does not meet the FAA standard for aircraft. What exactly that means leaves a lot to speculation. Mr. Wilson has owned at least 19 planes throughout his life and says he would rather fly one of these tiny planes than in a big jumbo jet. He says that if you get into trouble, you can do things with these smaller planes—a skill he has put to use a time or two.
Mr. Wilson said that one of the first things that caught his eye about flying was when a couple of the Boyer brothers flour-bombed the school in Savery. He said the kids were out for recess when the Boyers flew right over the school yard and dropped sacks of flour, which exploded into great white clouds. Mr. Wilson thought that was about the greatest thing he had ever seen and says that may have been the very thing that got him into flying. Jerry Wilson was living in Wamsutter when he got his first ride in a plane. Mr Wilson’s father would truck the horses from the horse trap to the corrals in Wamsutter, and occasionally one of the pilots would offer the young Mr. Wilson a ride back to town. Eventually, he took flying lessons in Rawlins, sometimes driving from Wamsutter only to hear that it was too windy to fly. He got his license about the same time he moved to Alaska, and he did a lot of flying there. Often, he would make deliveries into very remote places, either by landing on lakes or snow or by dropping supplies from the plane. One time, he had to drop a wheel with a tire and dropped it in a swamp so it wouldn’t break. He said the crew spent a bit of time digging it out afterwards, but it was in good shape in the end. When he lived in Alaska, he would vacation in the lower 48 and buy a plane down here and then fly it back. After a year or so, he would sell it and do it again.
Mr. Wilson donated the plane to the museum because he was a longtime resident here and flying was such a part of his life. Rumor has it that there are several people in the valley who might have a story or two to tell about flying with him, too. Mr. Wilson said he flew until he was 80 and then failed his health check, so he is no longer able to fly. He was quick to correct that statement however, and said that he could still fly an ultra light. So, if you look up in the sky one day and see a something like a lawn-chair with a propeller overhead, wave because it just might be Jerry Wilson.