August 7, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
What would happen if you gave a kid all the money he could spend and sent him into a candy store? In Merle Maine’s case, he wasn’t exactly a kid, but he bought every airplane, plus every Cadillac and Continental car he ever wanted. Some of them are rare, and are set to be auctioned off Aug. 17 in Oregon following his death earlier this year.
Prospective buyers will examine the items to be sold Aug. 16 at Ontario Municipal Airport in Ontario, Ore. A few items have been donated to museums but that leaves a huge collection of not only aircraft, but spare engines and rare parts. There are nine Cadillacs and Continentals ranging from 1959 to 1987. (See details of the sale.)
Maine was a beloved local figure who made his considerable fortune from basic services, like rock crushing, deep plowing, concrete, road construction, and related businesses. He started an FBO at the Ontario Airport, but was never interested in servicing airplanes. “He just wanted a way to pay a mechanic to work on his airplanes,” one source said.
He was “under the radar,” another source said. He didn’t need publicity or brag about his wealth. He studied the aircraft he wanted and could recite their history to visitors. Part of the enjoyment seems to be the quest to find the rare aircraft that attracted his attention, like the Douglas F5D Skylancer. He is said to have the only General Dynamics F-111 in private hands. The swing-wing aircraft was meant to be the one fighter for all services. A role as a navy interceptor never materialized.
Maine did things his own way. One who attended a memorial service for the collector heard a story related by a close associate about his purchase of his first aircraft, the 1959 North American T-28A. He was not a pilot, and had a pilot friend help him pick up the aircraft and fly it back to Ontario. He did much of the flying, and liked it so much he decided to get his pilot certificate. During training, he would fly his T-28 to a nearby town apparently as a student pilot, take private pilot training in a Piper 140, and return home in his T-28.
The auction is to be run by Starman Brothers (402/592-1933).
The items for sale include these aircraft: 1944 Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat, 1959 North American T-28A, Aero Vodochody L-39C Albatross, 1961 MiG 17A, 1983 MiG 23MF, 1957 Lockheed T-33A, 1958 de Havilland MK-35 DH115 Vampire Primary Trainer, Douglas F5D Skylancer, General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark, McDonnell Douglas A4 Skyhawk II, Vought A-7D Corsair (static display, and two Lockheed T-33 aircraft intended for static display). Most of the aircraft were operational or required little work to put them in the air.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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