for VAHS newsletter Winter 2021-2022
by Paul Sullivan
My son, Tim, and I could never forget Ray Tyson from one gloomy day in November, 1983.
That was the day the Shannon Air Museum died. Sid had died; lawyers had debated and the entire kit and kaboodle was moving to Richmond with (at that time) an uncertain future.
Tim was about 9, and he wanted to say goodbye to these beautiful early flying machines. We figured they’d be sold off and never seen again. Maybe that’s why Tim asked if he could shoot some video with the big, clunky Panasonic camera I had.
When I found that VHS tape and played it back years later, it seemed downright historic. Here’s what it captured:
The museum’s Curtiss Robin with its yellow-and-orange colors, was not on one of the flatbed trailers that morning, their engines rumbling, awaiting orders to ease out of the airport and haul it all to Richmond. All of the other aircraft Sid had so painstakingly bought or restored there at Shannon were aboard, Ready to go.
Surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the airport that morning, I mean, how often does this happen? A man’s entire life dream, loaded and ready for disposal?
Then Ray Tyson came out of the office wearing a zip-up flight suit. He walked over and talked for a moment with Francis Clore, one of the key people who worked for Sid and had restored quite a few of his airplanes over the years.
Ray got into the Robin; Francis stepped up to the prop, hesitated, and gave it a swing or two. The wheels were chocked, and I realized something was up.
Nobody told me anything at the time. But Ray Tyson, long a friend of Sid Jr., was going to make an event out of it and fly the Robin to Richmond.
They pre-flighted it. He was ready to go. In less time than it takes to write this, Clore swung the prop again and the old Wright J5 coughed, fired up and settled down to a nice idle.
At the time, I scarcely noticed my son was quietly shooting all this, close-up, with that video cam.
That’s about all that happened. Except that Tyson gave a little wave, taxied out and in minutes was roaring down runway 06 and airborne in no time, the little Robin looking absolutely beautiful on its final flight.
But Tyson didn’t just disappear into the gray, hazy morning. He circled around over town, headed downwind, lined up and cruised down the runway low, wagging the wings to say adios to EZF.
Editor’s note: Tim Sullivan is now a pilot for Southwest Airlines.