Life in the air addison and ryan pemberton handing down the Gold age of craftsmanship
Addison and Ryan Pemberton using their 1942 Grumman JRF-6B Before the old terminal building at Felts Field (KSFF) at Spokane, Washington. The family and many volunteers completed the Goose recovery in 2017.
A few years back, I strolled a rear street in Volterra, Italy, also stumbled upon a cluttered workshop where craftsmen were sculpting massive chunks of alabaster into gorgeous works of art. The worn hand instruments and the methods the artisans were utilizing looked as if they had been passed down through the generations– relics from a period once the seniors taught their children the family exchange and these kids taught their children.
The departure of an artisan’s skills from one generation to another has ever been a time-honored heritage intended to ensure a family’s legacy is preserved far to the future. This philosophy is very much intact in Felts Field (KSFF) at Spokane, Washington, in which Addison Pemberton is passing not just the skills, techniques and passion for restoring golden-age down antique airplanes to his son Ryan Pemberton, but also the valuable life lessons that guarantee success for the next generation.
Anyone having an interest in antique aircraft out of aviation’s golden age has likely seen the job of Pemberton and Sons Aviation in a museum or an airshow. The most visible is that the 1928 Boeing 40C the Pembertons restored into what many think is the most amazing example of a restored plane of the era. The family is presently working on their 21st reconstruct or complete recovery, a 1930 Travel Air 4000.
The skills necessary to take nothing more than a data plate along with a basket of reclaimed parts and turn it into a stunning flying museum piece have not changed from the first days of aviation. The masters that may finish this feat of incredible conclusion are a rare breed, estimated by Addison to be only about 100 in the united states. While many men and women can build airplanes, it takes a multitalented genius to split these enormous, yearslong projects into manageable portions.
The abilities necessary to bring golden-age planes back to life aren’t taught in any college; they need to be hard-wired into a individual’s soul.
Artisans like Addison and Ryan have had their abilities nurtured from a really young age. Both of these Pembertons were shop children fortunate enough to have elders who’d teach basic safety around power tools then stand back and let a child’s creativity induce the train.
“My father was an inventorand we’ve owned a manufacturing company my whole life,” Addison says,”so I grew up at the machine store and got handed an acetylene torch once I was 8 years old and advised not to burn the building down. Myself and my friends had free run of the milling machines and lathes and, naturally, built all sorts of go-karts and minibikes. My father’s attitude was supposed to treat us as adults, which instilled a lot of confidence in us as young boys. But with the liberty from the shop came the responsibilities to learn correct procedures and practice safety.”
Years later, after Addison had transferred Scanivalve–the family company –to Spokane, he brought his son Ryan in the store for an young age. “One of the greatest things that my dad did for me personally was to treat me like I was capable of developing and learning,” Ryan explains. “He got that from my grandfather, and that I aspire to take care of my children the same way. I grew up at a shop where I had two experienced, educated guys–my dad and my grandfather–who were there to invest in me and allow me to try my hand at anything. When I was 13 years old, my dad supplied me with a TIG welding torch along with the equipment. There was never a question if I’d be involved in aviation; it was just a question of exactly what my participation would look like.”
Addison clarifies that there wasn’t a particular time once the torch was passed to Ryan–it was a just natural progression. “Literally in the time he could walkRyan grew up observing the store environment. In high school, he began to show a keen interest in working with metal, so we purchased him an English wheel. . .his skills on compound-metal work and welding surpass me nowadays.” “I call Wendy my’cover girl,”’ Addison says. “She’s all our fabric work and is well-versed in most of the covering processes. Jay is a 14,000-hour pilot for a major cargo airline but assists us with assembly and maintenance, plus flying everything we have, including the 40C at WAAAM.”
Addison and Ryan agree that within every restoration project, there are lots of challenges that must be overcome. “The thing that I enjoy about restoring golden-age antique airplanes is that, in so many cases, you can not just call an 800 number and give them a credit card and have the component show up,” Addison says. “We’ve got to build the part from scratch, so going back and placing ourselves at the original designer’s head. And we’ve got to think of tooling to do so. That’s the challenge we actually like, and I am able to present my son Ryan a set of drawings in the 1920s, and he can create that part equal to or better than brand new.”
Because this article was being written, Ryan was flying the household’s trusty Cessna 185 to the Antique Airplane Association’s yearly fly-in held in Blakesburg, Iowa. Addison uses this event as a gauge for what the future holds regarding the preservation and restoration of golden-age airplanes. “Should you go to Blakesburg, you’ll see a good deal of gray-haired guys, but you’ll also see a lot of 20-somethings that are interested in learning the craft. Because nearly all the folks doing this job are more than pleased to pass on what they understand to the second generation, I feel confident that the skills necessary to keep the old stuff flying won’t be lost,” Addison says.