By John Charles Corrigan

'Ann Can Fly' by John Charles CorriganI would have to say that my interest in aviation has been lifelong. When I was young, the library where we lived in Whitby, Ontario was at the corner of Dundas Street West and Byron Street North. (The building is still there, although today it is a law office.) The Childrens’ section was in the basement of the library. There was a separate entrance for us on the west side of the building. I suspect it was designed that way so the adults would not be disturbed by us youngsters. When I was eight or nine years old, I remember discovering a book there, titled Ann Can Fly. Published by the same company that produced the books of Dr. Seuss, the book was written by Fred Phleger, and illustrated by Robert Lopshire. It is the story of a young girl and her father. They live in San Diego, California, but Ann needs to get to Colorado for summer Camp at Lake Wood. Her father, who is a pilot, offers to fly her there in his new plane.

Ann has never been up in an airplane, so she asks, “Will it be fun? Will I like it?” Her father assures her that it is fun and she will like it. (I’m sure, I would have had those same questions, if I had been in Ann’s place.) They drive to the airport in their convertible. “Wow! They own a convertible and an airplane! Ann’s family must be rich”, I thought. At that time we were living in a century home in Whitby at the corner of Palace and Mary Streets. It was my grandmother’s house. She was bedridden, and my mother was her caregiver. My father worked at General Motors in Oshawa, Ontario and had just been promoted to foreman.  When you add my five siblings and me, there were nine of us crammed into that little, old house. We were also rich, but in other ways!

Upon arrival at the airport, Ann and her father start removing their luggage from the car. Ann notices a small aircraft nearby and asks her father about the “funny things over the wheels.” He explains that they are floats to let them land on water. He assures Ann that it’s a good plane and it will hold all her things. In hindsight, the airport pictured on pages 4 and 5 has quite an unusual assortment of aircraft. Of course, there are a few small, privately owned aircraft. However, there is also a United States Air Force (USAF) F-102 Delta Dagger supersonic jet interceptor making a very low altitude pass over the airfield, reminiscent of a scene from the movie Top Gun. A Convair 880 jet airliner is parked on the tarmac. (Designed to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 by being smaller and faster, this aircraft did not attract much interest from the Airlines and only 65 were built.) Perhaps the most unusual aircraft in the scene is a Piasecki YH-16 Transporter twin-rotor helicopter. (Two YH-16 prototypes were evaluated by the USAF and US Army but a fatal crash on January 5, 1956, resulted in the project being cancelled.)

Author Fred Phleger covers all the basic procedures of a cross-country flight in a small, private aircraft in his 63-page story book. This includes, checking weather conditions, filing a flight plan, doing a pre-flight inspection, fueling the aircraft, taxiing to the runway, getting clearance to take-off from the control tower and getting airborne. During the flight, Ann’s father explains the instruments and teaches her about the various controls and how they affect the aircraft in flight. As they are approaching Lake Mead to refuel, Ann’s father describes how the floats work to allow the aircraft to land on the water. After refuelling, they continue on with their flight. Later, they fly over the Grand Canyon. By then the sun was beginning to set, so they land at a small airport with a restaurant and motel.

The next morning, Ann’s father checks the weather and determines that it is safe to continue. Under his watchful eye, Ann gets a chance to fly the aircraft. As they continue on, the weather starts to deteriorate. It begins to rain and they fly through some turbulent air. Eventually, Ann spots Camp Lake Wood through an opening in the clouds below and they are able to land. The story ends with Ann sitting by a campfire telling the other girls about her experience, using hand gestures to describe the flying maneuvers just like an experienced pilot would do.

I took this book home to read on more than one occasion. It fueled the interest I already had in flying! As a teen, I had the opportunity to fly in a Cessna 172, much like the one in the book. That flight was memorable for an incident that occurred as we were preparing to take off. The control tower called to warn us of a deer that was running across the airfield. Sure enough, we watched as it dashed across the runway right in front us. The deer continued towards the perimeter of the airfield, where it leaped over a fence and disappeared into the woods beyond.

After high school, I enrolled in the Air Transport Technology course at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario. The second year of this course included flight training. By the end of that school year, I had recorded four hours in my “Pilot’s Flying Log Book”. However, realizing employment opportunities were quite limited, I decided to switch to the Mechanical Engineering course. By the summer of 1978, I was working as an inspector at a company that manufactured landing gear and hydraulic systems for civilian and military aircraft.

In the years that followed, I progressed through a number of different positions within the company. I was lucky in that whenever I was ready for a change a new opportunity presented itself. In my different roles, I was able to travel to Europe and throughout North America attending training sessions, corporate meetings, and visiting customers, suppliers and our company’s other facilities. On January 3, 2014, after a 35-year career in the Aerospace Industry, I retired as our site’s Quality Systems and Regulatory Manager.  

Just recently, I was reminded of this book when someone posted pages 12 and 13 on Facebook. Unfortunately, there was no mention of the book’s title. However, after a brief search on Google, I was able to find it and a copy of Ann Can Fly arrived by courier a few days later. It wasn’t exactly in pristine condition, but it was how you might expect a book to look after being in a public library.