Lockheed P-38 Lightning: P-38 Super Senior Pilot Bill Laubner

David Pankratz from Stroudsburg, PA purchased N992SP our previous demonstration aircraft. He lives in Pennsylvania and had the opportunity to take his old friend Bill Laubner with him on a flight in the Super Petrel. Bill is not as agile as he once was when he flew the P-38 Lightning during WWII. So, they improvised a way to get him into and out of the Super Petrel. Once he was strapped in, the old fighter pilot training kicked in. Like riding a bicycle.

As I mentioned, William (Bill) Laubner and I finally went flying again, after several delays due to weather, etc. We had rehearsed the “insertion and extraction” sequence with the engine hoist and chair sling, and all went smoothly last Saturday. Bill is very alert and generally agile, but the stress on his knees and shoulders, getting in and out of the cockpit, was deemed by both of us to be too risky for a 99 yr and 9 mo. old pilot.

He has ridden several times with me since 2014, in the Seneca II and the Turbo Seminole.  This was a first, however, since he had never flown in a biplane, a pusher, or a seaplane.  He took to the stick quite quickly, since his primary training began in 1942 in the PT-22, then BT-13 and AT-6.  The P-38 had a yoke, with throttles and props controls on the left hand.

Except for some moderate vision deterioration, he has a steady hand and does an excellent job of holding altitude and heading, and can make good 360s in both directions.  He still has good instincts in turbulence, and hand-flew the Petrel for a full 35 min. of the 1+05 hr flight. He was again in his element, and he looks forward to his first experience in landing on the water.