Standing on the flight line at the local flying field and telling tall stories is nothing new. The first casual comment was the opener from Kurt Cleveland, “..my Grandma could fly!” The President of Hobby Express, glanced at his brother with a “top that” look. “So could mine…” laughed Mark Cleveland, “…but she never crashed like you’re about to..” as the CEO jostled his younger brother’s Spectrum radio.
Esther Norbert Warner — later known to us as Betty Cleveland (or Grandma) was our father’s mother and she could fly! For real! In this favorite family photo, she stands tall at age 16, one of the first licensed female pilots in California. There is no doubt she was also the youngest when she earned her wings. Imagine how much of a renegade she was in her day!
Years ago, the family collected her goggles, flight boots, that cool jacket and other memorabilia as a donation to the new Museum of Flight being developed at the College of Pacific. That institution was a pioneer in flight training in the early period of the age of flight and that’s also where our Grandma and other relatives got their wings. The School, flight historians and others in California have taken up a project to make this part of flight history come to life.
In 2009 when Mark Cleveland bought Hobby-Lobby International, Inc. (now Hobby Express) this was the mysterious photo that hung on the wall. The staff overlooked the fact it was a female pilot at the center of the photograph, and asked about the air plane.
We had no idea what she flew until our great Aunt Marj broke the story… not one other person in the family had the answer until then: you’re looking at an Alexander Eaglerock.
For all you flight historians, this aircraft was used in the College of Pacific Flight Training School where Grandma took flying lessons from her uncle, the school’s only instructor. We think it would be a blast to introduce this airplane, something with a family tie, as one of our new Pilot-1 Golden Age Civilian series. What do you think?
This bi-plane reportedly flew like a dream. The one pictured was crashed a few times and rebuilt. At Hobby Express we look for “under-modeled” airplanes because, at least it seems to us, that everyone is copying everyone. We want to deliver quality, but also something really different and interesting that you will WANT to bring to the local R/C flying field.
We both just wish we could go back in time and watch our Grandma fly!