Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Sunkist Lady

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

Did you know that Fullerton has an airport? Well, it does. The Fullerton Municipal Airport was built in the 1920s, and still operates today. It is the only municipal airport left in Orange County. It services mainly small aircraft, and offers flight training programs. When I ran for City Council in 2010, I was invited to participate in a candidate forum at the airport. It’s pretty awesome. They have a little cafĂ©, a flight control tower, and lots of little airplanes.

Probably the most famous airplane to fly out of the Fullerton Airport was the Sunkist Lady, which set the world record for longest flight in 1949. Pilots Dick Riedel and Bill Barris flew a single-engine airplane for 42 days, taking off and landing at the Fullerton Municipal Airport. They flew all the way to Miami and back. When they landed, over 10,000 people were there to greet them.

How did they stay airborne for 42 days in a single-engine airplane? How did they get food and gas? According to Bob Ziebell, “It could not have been done without the support of the ground crew—Frank Miller, Don Janson, and Lloyd Colboch. They flew aboard a second Aeronca—the Lady’s Maid—to airports along the flight route, where they would land, board Willy’s Jeepsters, and drive down the runway, passing up gasoline and food as the Sunkist Lady flew overhead” (Fullerton: A Pictorial History).

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