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'Lefty' gives it another goLefty gives it another go

Celebrates 99th birthday with flight

When last we met with Jack “Lefty” Leftwich it was 2010, and he announced he would end his flying career with one more flight. It was a two-seat Quicksilver. Once you’ve flown admirals to the Pacific war theater in a Boeing 314 flying boat and captained the first air service to West Berlin in a Douglas DC-6, you can fly anything. He ended his Pan American career as a captain in a Boeing 727.

Before the story was published he had changed his mind and decided additional flights would be necessary before he could call it quits. He was 93. In early August he proved the decision was still open with yet another last flight in that same Quicksilver—at age 99. Afterward he announced he would call it quits.

His flight took him, solo, to the former site of his grandmother’s farm where he played as a boy. He saw the tree where he sat as a boy, pretending it was an airplane. His very first airplane ride as a boy ended badly with a midair crash that killed Mildred Kauffman, who held the women’s record for loops.

Leftwich and the Quicksilver returned after 30 minutes, doing a fly-by of his son, Bill. Both his son and grandson make the final inspections for Gulfstream business jets. Bill helped Phil Lockwood design and manufacture the twin-engine AirCam for National Geographic.

Leftwich's Threshing Bee Airport at McLouth, Kansas, near Kansas City, named for a threshing bee once held on the fairgrounds near there, has been quiet between his yearly flights. After his last flight on Aug. 8, the day after his birthday, Leftwich taxied up to his son and said, “OK, that’s it, I’m done.” Here’s betting the grass runway airport will once again host the roar of Lefty’s engine on his 100th birthday.

Alton Marsh

Alton K. Marsh

Freelance journalist
Alton K. Marsh is a former senior editor of AOPA Pilot and is now a freelance journalist specializing in aviation topics.
Topics: Aircraft, Seaplane, Vintage

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