Clarence See
Trade Craft

I'm a slow learner, but I'm really slow when it comes to piloting soar planes: there's something that I'm trying to do that they're not teaching, so I have to learn it myself. That's another way of saying I crash a lot.

The first time I smashed in the nose of my glider I brought it to Clarence See. I learned a lot about airplane repair and a bit about him. The second time I smashed up the nose of my glider I sold it without fixing it: it was more than I was willing to handle. I brought it to Clarence to appraise, and I prevailed upon him to provide this story.

Clarence was well known as a mechanic and test pilot in the heyday of the Schweizer Airplane Company in Elmira, NY. He's not one to boast, but I know that an emergncy, off-field landing is no simple thing even when your engine isn't beltching smoke and flames. For Clarence it was just another exciting day at work. Now 86, Clarence is still fixing and flying airplanes, and watching college courses that he gets on DVD.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"My grandfather was a farmer. He was an inspiration to me my whole life, even though he passed away when I was quite young. Living there on the farm I spent all my time with him… He was a master barn builder. But he made his money raising tobacco. He ran this farm for a captain in the civil war…

"One of the things that got me interested in flying was that part of the farm that was on the river flats. They were nice long fields, 3,000 foot long. They would bring students over… and they’d practice approaches and forced landings. When they’d pull up on a missed approach I’d see the Standards and Wacos going by. I landed in all the fields that I dreamed of landing in as a kid, later on in life…

"I did the engine installations, worked up the cooling, worked up everything. There was a lot of airplanes out there… Sometimes I had 7 or 8 airplanes going at one time. I was sometimes flying 10, 12 hours in the day. Start flying at 6 o’clock in the morning and get through at dark… One summer I had 32 people working for me. The youngest one was 10 years older than I was, and that was quite an education for a kid!

"The fellow had always wondered how he was going to get the C2 over to the lake. Well, I had the time on the engine, and the water was still out there on the field. So I ran it up to full throttle and the damn thing started to slide. I said, 'Boy, here’s a way to get your airplane in the lake!' It was so easy: it started sliding and I just let it go…

"I’m still going to school… I felt like a 16-year old every morning that I got up, up until last year."


Clarence See recounts the story "I Rescued The Orlik", page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4

N34180: The First Time I Broke It

Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.