Catch-A-Cardinal Sweepstakes: Surprise of a Lifetime

Texas pilot wins AOPA's Catch-A-Cardinal

March 1, 2008

How differently we react to “surprise.” For Longview, Texas-based Bruce Chase, the surprise of winning an airplane didn’t even warrant a smile—at least for the first few minutes. He only nodded politely as AOPA President Phil Boyer and a crowd of television cameras engulfed him as he heard the news that he had won AOPA’s 2007 Catch-A-Cardinal Sweepstakes prize, a fully refurbished 1977 Cessna Cardinal. Minutes later, though, his wife, Debbie, gushed, “I about leapt out of my skin,” as she heard the news via cellphone. “I didn’t take him seriously...he’s always kidding around.”

The trap had been set nearly two weeks earlier when Bruce Chase received a telephone call from AOPA Air Safety Foundation Director Bruce Landsberg. Landsberg, a better liar than we thought, claimed he had heard from an aircraft manufacturer and then from Chase’s profile on the LeTourneau University Web site about Chase’s interest in studying how pilots transition between glass cockpits and conventional instruments. Chase is an assistant professor and the assistant chief flight instructor in LeTourneau’s Aeronautical Science Department.

Landsberg noted that ASF was also interested in the subject and might be willing to fund a study. And, just coincidently, Landsberg happened to be flying by Longview on his way to another meeting on January 25. He proposed that Chase meet him at KRS Express FBO at Longview for a cup of coffee to discuss the possible grant.

Meanwhile, plans to move the airplane secretly to the East Texas airport went into motion as well as efforts to arrange for the surprise unveiling.

The meeting went as scheduled, with Landsberg hosting the mock appointment in the KRS Express conference room while Boyer, the camera crews, and airplane were positioned just outside. Landsberg brought Chase around the corner to see “an airplane with a glass panel in it.” Instead, he was greeted by the shiny red and white Cardinal and Boyer holding a giant key.

“They really got me. I’m still in a little bit of shock,” said the soft-spoken Chase a few minutes later.

Chase, 38, has never owned an airplane before. The flight instructor earned his various ratings, including an A&P certificate, while studying for a bachelor’s degree in aviation technology at LeTourneau. In 2005, he completed his master’s degree in aeronautical science through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Distance Learning program. He has given more than 6,300 hours of flight instruction.

The father of two grew up in Korea as the son of missionary parents. The important role that airplanes play in missionary work inspired Chase to attend LeTourneau and learn to fly. After graduating in 1992, he stayed at the school to teach. The university uses a fleet of new Cessna 172s, a Piper Lance, a pair of American Champion Citabrias, and a pair of Diamond DA42 TwinStars to train 130 students at any one time.

To learn more about the Cardinal and the important contributors that made it possible, see AOPA Online.

As they say on TV, “It could be you.” AOPA’s 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes is underway. Anyone who joins AOPA or renews in 2008 is automatically entered to win. A year from now, someone else will be surprised to learn that they’ve won the fully refurbished 1976 Piper Archer II featuring the latest in aftermarket glass cockpit upgrades. Perhaps Chase, who did receive $5,000 for his study from ASF, will be up for providing the transition training to the new winner.

For more information, see AOPA Online.

E-mail the author at thomas.haines@aopa.org.