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Oldest U.S. Aviation Explorer Squadron Celebrates 65 Years

News > Oldest U.S. Aviation Explorer Squadron Celebrates 65 Years

TOPEKA, KANSAS – In 1976, Aviation Explorer Post 8 celebrated the United States bicentennial by circumnavigating the United States. Flight Instructor Mark Kingman was 19 years old when he piloted two legs during what the Air Explorer Squadron’s called the “Paul Revere Bicentennial Flight.”

1976 Post 8 Aviation Explorers
In 1976, a crew of 20 scouts from Aviation Explorer Post 8 took turns circumnavigating the United States.

“The first leg was from Great Falls, Montana to Portland to Bakersfield to San Diego,” he said. Then he anchored the final leg of the trip from Charleston to Philadelphia, landing amid the historical Fourth of July celebration. The circumnavigation earned Post 8 the Freedom Foundation’s George Washington Honor Medal.

Mark Kingman, CFI
Retired pilot Mark Kingman is a former Aviation Explorer and volunteers as a CFI at Post 8.

Aviation Explorer Post 8 is the oldest registered Aviation Explorer post in the United States. Now co-ed, explorer posts have been affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America since 1935.  Aviation Explorer Post 8 was chartered with the Boy Scouts of America in 1952.

Kingman said that Charles Carpenter, Navy pilot, engineer, and founder of Aviation Explorer Post 8, had talked to scouts about planning the flight for several years in advance. The details of the trip and the steps leading up to the initial takeoff from Philadelphia included a repainting of the Piper Cherokee and a new tail number. “We put a new number on it for the flight,” Kingman said. “We changed it so we would have a particular call sign for the aircraft: 3PR.”

Three Paul Revere,” Kingman said.
The three represented “one, if by land, and two, if by sea.”

The Post had two planes and 20 scouts in the air during the 30-day adventure. One scout would fly the Piper Cherokee 180 with a CFI in the right seat while a fellow scout documented the flight. The rest of the team traveled the route in a Cessna 182 that followed, Kingman said.

Bicentennial Flight Map
The explorers started and ended their 30-day journey in Philadelphia where they celebrated the Bicentennial.

It’s been 41 years since that journey. Kingman, who was commissioned by the U.S. Air Force and trained as a pilot, went on to become a commercial pilot for U.S. Airways, served in the National Guard, and retired as an EMS helicopter pilot. Now, he has landed back in Topeka, Kansas, volunteering as a Chief Flight Instructor of scouts in the same squadron where he got his start in aviation.

On Sept. 30, 2017, Kingman joined the current squadron members, advisers, and their friends and families to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Post 8 during the annual banquet. According to Post 8 Vice President, Adam Smith, more than 200 people attended the event. The money raised from ticket sales and an auction totaled $18,000. The funds raised from the banquet provide scouts with the opportunity to explore aviation.

1940 Taylorcraft BL 65
One of the first planes acquired by the Explorers, a 1940 Taylorcraft BL-65.

The Post gives members ranging in ages 14 to 19 a chance to earn a Private Pilot Certificate, help maintain and repair aircraft, meet aviation industry professionals, take advantage of leadership opportunities, participate in hands-on learning activities, and give back to the community through volunteerism and fundraising.

After searching through the Post’s photo albums, Banquet Chair, Lettie Thomas, created a slideshow to feature the traditions and key steps the Post made to further its growth and continue its mission. The presentation included a tribute to founder Charles Carpenter, who was inducted into the Kansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1992. It also highlighted the famous circumnavigation, featured some of the Post’s first planes including a 1940 Taylorcraft BL-65, 1949 Piper Clipper PA-16, 1966 Alon A-2, and a 1969 Piper Cherokee 140, and shared aviation events that the Post attended.

Providing young adults an experience and exposure to
career opportunities in the field of aviation.”

On Saturdays, scouts attend ground school at Hangar 15 at Billiard Airport. They use the Gleim Aviation FAA Knowledge Test Prep books and online software to prepare for the FAA exam and their flight training. In the summer, an accelerated study effort rounds out the training.

“We just had seven scouts pass their knowledge test using Gleim,” Kingman said. “We try to get them started at 14 so they get a year or two of ground school in and then turn around and start flying at 16.”

At age 15, Adam Smith said he is working toward passing his FAA exam to get his pilot’s license. Smith said he is planning on logging flight time as soon he qualifies. Currently he’s studying for his Remote Pilot certificate using the Gleim Remote Pilot FAA Knowledge Test Prep Online. He is attending ground school while he works his way through his Gleim Private Pilot book. He said, “I like the practice tests.”

Smith’s aviation career goal is to earn a professional pilot degree at Kansas State, earn his commercial pilot certificate, and become an aerial firefighter. The Aviation Explorer post provides Smith with a head start toward his career ambitions. “I like the view while flying. The difficulty of it makes it a fun challenge for me.”

Learn more about the Aviation Explorer Squadron 8.

Photos Courtesy Explorer Post 8

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