Lori Adams, 81, of  Smithville, Texas flies a 1967 Citabria and has logged 29,000 hours in 55 years.  She continues to fly aerobatics in Smithville.

Lori Adams

Lori Adams

By Andrea Lorenz
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

The red-headed pilot takes precautions before she flies the 1967 single-engine Citabria she co-owns with friend and former student Austin Wambler.

She checks the fuel and oil, gives the plane a once-over and never flies in bad weather, except for occasions like two weeks ago at the Smithville Municipal Airport Fly-In, when, despite looming clouds, she gave onlookers a show of airplane aerobatics. On a recent Sunday, she guided the plane in loops, spins and dives for onlookers, moves she’s done for so long they no longer thrill her, but people enjoy them so she continues them.

Born the year Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis in the first solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight, Adams said she hesitates to share her age lest it deter passengers or students from flying with her. “They’ll see an old woman, and they’ll say, ‘I don’t want to fly with that old grandma.’ ”

Bubbly and energetic, when Adams isn’t working her four days a week at Smithville’s Brookshire Brothers petrol station, she’s flying or at the airport.

She’s called the Queen of the Airport Bums, according to the group of pilots and airplane aficionados who hang out at the Smithville airport, because she’s the only woman of the bunch.

Adams spends many of her weekends there, where she and Wambler keep their plane in a hangar they also own. Sometimes they go for a “$100 hamburger,” pilot-speak for the cost of the fuel it takes to fly to another town for a burger.

“This is where she comes into her own,” Wambler said as Adams took off for a solo flight to show off her aerobatic moves. “When she gets into an airplane, she goes into her own world.”

Adams began flying in her early 20s, but her interest in aviation started when she was a child in Smithville.

“I jumped from the hayloft into the hay,” she said. “I thought I wanted to fly.”

In her teens, she tried to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who flew military aircraft during World War II, but she was too young.

Adams finally had a chance to fly in a plane thanks to acquaintances. She worked as a photographer snapping pictures of patrons at a nightclub, and the band director took her up. Her roommate’s boyfriend gave Adams her first lessons in Dallas in exchange for paying her roommate’s share of the rent for a month: $50.

The first time Adams flew alone, in a J-3 Cub, the control stick used to fly the plane from the back seat came off during the flight. She managed to land safely by climbing into the front seat, but the incident scared her.

“I quit flying for about a year,” Adams said. “With the stick coming out, I thought the good Lord didn’t want me to fly.”

She eventually got back in a plane, obtained her license and moved to Houston. She married Dick Adams along the way. He died in 1960 when his crop-dusting plane went down because it was overloaded. She never remarried.

In 1964, Adams opened a flight school at Houston’s Hobby Airport, where she stayed until the 1980s when the airport became too congested to handle small planes. She then retired, returned to her hometown and started giving instructions in Smithville.

Although she no longer teaches, with 29,000 flying hours, Adams doesn’t have plans to slow down.

Federal Aviation Administration rules require commercial passenger pilots to retire by 65, but there’s no age limit for other pilots as long as they pass regular medical exams.

Adams said she will fly “till I die.”

“For real,” she said. “You’ll see it someday in the paper. You’ll say, ‘Oh, I knew her.’ But now I’m healthy and I feel good.”

Adams said the only trouble she has getting around is caused by a pesky ankle injury she got skydiving; she jumped out of a plane two years ago and caught her foot on the way out — “a freak accident,” she said. And Adams wants another go at skydiving — without the broken ankle.

“I want to make a good one,” she said. Citing former President George Bush’s skydiving trips in his 80s, she said, “It’s no big deal.”

 —————————————————————————–

 This picture of Lori Adams from 1966 was sent by Jerry Griggs, a former line boy for Lori.  (See Comments).  Lori taught Jerry to fly in 1967 and Jerry taught his daughter and her best friend to fly his Aeronca “K” when the girls were 16. They are featured on this website at Janice & Andrea\’s First Solos .

Lori Adams with Russell Bird

 

8 Comments

  1. Dennis Wood
    August 11, 2011, 12:18 am   /  Reply

    Lulu, the nick name Tom Collins gave you at Hobby in the mid 70s . Would love to see you again. Dennis Wood

  2. Michael Elliott
    May 17, 2011, 6:06 pm   /  Reply

    Flew some friends down to Houston. At the hotel, got on the internet and read about lori adams. She ran a flight school at Hobby Field in the 70’s. I soloed out of her school. From there I flew at various gigs in the states and in the bahama’s and PR. In 1990 joined the FAA and just retired in 2010. Doing more flying for fun now than when I flew with the FAA for the past 20 years. Never got a chance to thank her for having patience and providing the tools I would need to make it. If anyone still has contact with her..tell her I said thanks.

    Mike Elliott (FAA Operations Inspector – retired)

  3. Mike Crider
    May 3, 2011, 3:49 pm   /  Reply

    LOVE my LORI, Out of the country now will see you at the airport sometime. If you had not taken the time with me way back then, I would not be where I am now. At Airbus now

  4. April 14, 2011, 10:53 am   /  Reply

    I am totally surprised to see this article submitted by Andrea Lorenz here. She made so many errors in this story. I do not have 29 but 27,000 hrs. I did not climb in the front seat of that Cub when the stick came out. I loosened my seat belt, reached up and grabbed the stick up in the front and went from there. I could go on and on with the errors but so be it.
    And thanks to the “little students of mine” comments. I am so proud of them. Wish we could have a reunion there in Houston. Maybe?? And to Aubrey’s question about his license. Aubrey, if youu left your “license” (student) then you could have gotten another from FAA. When I left Hobby Airport I had boxed up anything left in the office and now after 30 or so years who knows? Sorry about that. And “little” Jerry Griggs who worked hard at the school for his lessons I can’t believe what you are doing! Wow! And Russell! You all amaze me. Thanks for the picture and comments!
    I am still at 84R and flying a 1959 (yes) C172. It is a beautiful plane. Giving a few lessons and mostly BFRs. Still passing the 2nd class med and still kicking!

  5. DONALD AUBRY
    August 4, 2010, 9:59 am   /  Reply

    I TOOK LESSONS AT LORIS’ FLIGHT SCHOOL AND SOLOED BACK IN 1975. I NEVER FLEW AGAIN AND WAS WONDERING WHAT EVER BECAME OF MY LICENSE THAT WAS LEFT AT HER SCHOOL AT HOBBY AIRPORT.

  6. Dan Harbaugh
    May 29, 2010, 9:20 pm   /  Reply

    Lori was one of the Hobby Airport gang in the Max Simms/Atlas Aviation hangar when I bought my Beech Bonanza from Max about 1972. She gave me several Annual Check Rides in her Champion. She’s a great lady and a great pilot ! Glad to see she’s still flying.

  7. March 14, 2010, 4:08 pm   /  Reply

    What a great article and really glad to see that Lori is still kicking and flying especially. She soled me when I was 16 in 1966. I worked with Jerry Griggs as a line boy and got $15 dollars a week and 2 hours of dual instruction in a C150 or Champ. She started my career dreams and today I work for American Airlines as a captain on a B777. Love to see Lori again and hope it’s possible someday. God Bless

  8. Gerald (Jerry) Griggs
    March 14, 2010, 11:32 am   /  Reply

    In 1967 & 68 I was a line boy for Lori Adams exchanging work for flying lessons at her flight school. I was 16 years old then and I want to thank her for giving me my start in aviaiton. I now have about 12,000 hours and teach ATP pilots in Learjet simulators and Learjet airplanes. I’m very happy to learn Lori is not only still flying but flying aerobatics in a tailwheel. When I worked for her, Lori’s Flying School had a Champion 7EC that I dearly loved and an Aeronca Defender that I cut my tailwheel teeth on.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: