The Liberty Gazette
October 6, 2009
October 6, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: Having arrived at David Rogers’ grass airfield, we hopped out and chatted as he pointed out things we were seeing up close for the first time. David told us all about this place he built there in Crosby. Then he led us to his Beech D18S. In the hangar, there she was, somewhat naked without her engines but the newly rebuilt Pratt & Whitney R-985, 450-horsepower radial engines were sitting on pallets right in front of her. A couple guys had been helping prepare for mounting the engines but something was wrong with the overhauled propeller mechanisms so they were sent back to the shop and now David was spending his time telling us how he got where he is today.
While studying Agricultural Education in Huntsville, he and a buddy discovered a one-pump Humble Oil gas station for sale. Both boys had worked at gas stations in Baytown during high school so with a $1,200 loan from their parents, they bought the gas station and worked it together. This is where the flying part comes in. It so happened that David wanted copies of pictures from a Scouting trip he’d made as a teenager. He was 14 and in the Boy Scouts when Scout Master Bill Kubik took the troop to Philmont for their hiking merit badge. A former paratrooper, Mr. Kubik was a good influence on the boys. David figured his Scout Master would still have the pictures, so he phoned. Mrs. Kubik answered and directed David to the Baytown Airport. Philmont hiking photos still foremost on his mind, David went to the airport in search of Bill, but he was out flying. Watching the airport action made the wait seem inconsequential. John Early was part of that action, fueling his Luscombe. When the two struck up a conversation, Mr. Early offered to take David for a ride. That’s the day David Rogers got hooked on airplanes.
His first solo flight was in a J-3 Cub. Meanwhile, his entrepreneurial experience was growing. He bought Russ Clanton’s Phillips gas station in Huntsville, then he bought a Cessna 140 to continue his training. He earned a private pilot license in January of 1958, and moved up to a Cessna 170. Then came the instrument rating, obtained while studying at American Flyers at Fort Worth Meacham Field.
Eventually he sold his gas stations, returning to Baytown to teach 4th grade, but the entrepreneurial spirit is not easily quieted, so when someone suggested a Tastee Freeze franchise, David looked into it, and bought one. It worked so well he bought another. Those successes led to real estate development and eventually he built quite a business. Like many efficient business owners, he got around using his airplanes.
By 1965 David was airplane shopping again, this time for a Beechcraft. Briefly considering a Beech Baron light twin engine airplane, the Beech 18 won him over; engine overhauls would cost $30,000 on the Baron while the Beech 18’s big round radial engines could be had for $2,500. They burned more gas but at 25 cents a gallon he could afford $15 an hour. “Besides,” he says, “the Beech 18 can run all day on one engine and has a larger, more comfortable cabin.” David has flown his beloved Beech 18 to many far-off destinations (including Mexico, until drug smuggling got so bad he worried smugglers would steal his airplane which was perfect for such clandestine trips). Next week: Part Three.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.