Malcolm Morrison keeps his Aero Commander U9 in the backyard.
It isn’t so much hiding in plain site as it is just idling there in Stormstown, out in the open, doors unlocked, the key — so to speak — in the ignition.
His lax security standards can be attributed to the overarching benefits of life in a small town, the type of place where a man can trust his neighbors to resist any and all lingering temptations to strap themselves into the cockpit and go for a joyride up into the wild blue yonder.
Of course, it helps that this particular plane has no engine and sports a pair of wings that have been filed down into nubs. Trust only gets you so far.
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“I think everyone has some fascination with flight, I really do,” Morrison said.
I think everyone has some fascination with flight, I really do.
Before you go reading too much into that, consider the source.
Morrison has been mesmerized by aviation since he was a boy. The world was a simpler place back then — or at the very least, a less cautious one.
Now it’s more difficult for a curious youngster to get close to an aircraft without a ticket or a pilot’s license in hand, subjecting a love affair with planes to the same indignities suffered by any other long distance relationship.
The romance might still be there, but the spark is flickering.
Morrison bought the shell of the Aero Commander U9 on eBay because — well, he just enjoys buying airplane parts online — but also with the hope that there are still young imaginations out there that remain strapped in and ready for takeoff.
That post-retirement plane you’ve chartered to Fiji won’t be flying itself, you know.
“We keep hearing that there’s going to be a shortage of pilots in the near future,” Morrison said.
We keep hearing that there’s going to be a shortage of pilots in the near future.
When he hauled the Aero Commander U9 out of a junkyard in Ohio, it was what those in the aviation business might have deemed a bit of a “fixer-upper.” Or what those in the classifieds department might consider “gently used.”
The rest of us would probably just call it “scrap metal.”
This plane, as Morrison tells it, was one of the original three of its kind to be presented to the Army for testing back in 1952. By the time he got his hands on fuselage, the shell had been almost completely gutted, whatever inspirational powers it may have once possessed humbled by the wear and tear of the past.
Morrison replaced most of the original instrument panel — to satisfy man’s primal need to push random buttons — and installed three seats that were themselves refugees from the husk of an old car. The result is about as close as the old bird will get to recapturing some of its luster — and a pretty convincing simulation to boot.
So far, the Aero Commander’s second lease on life has been spent at aviation conventions and the Penn State homecoming parade, but Morrison is hoping to start renting it out to children’s birthday parties.
The response from that key demographic has already been very enthusiastic.
“You even hear them talking like pilots,” Morrison said.