Summer Martell (Washington)

Every so often a new pilot comes along & joins our merry band of lady taildragger pilots and her aircraft… its history… her story… are so remarkable that I can’t wait to share it with you all. This is one of those times. I hope you join me in welcoming Summer Martell to Ladies Love Taildraggers and enjoy her beautiful biplane and remarkable story! Summer is based at 0S9, Jefferson County International Airport, Port Townsend, Washington.

Summer Martell

One of 6 Student Princes ever built by the Aircraft Builders Corporation in Portland, Oregon, my father’s airplane N10686 s/n 103 was the third and last certificated airplane to roll out of the factory doors before the company folded due to the Depression.  Three incomplete Student Princes were donated to a local A&P school to be assembled by the students as “Experimental”.  There are currently 3 Student Princes flying. Two factory built and one Experimental. All 3 in Washington state.  What follows next is a love story……

1931 Student Prince

I hadn’t spent much time with my father due to my parent’s divorce and my living in Alaska and he in Washington.  But that all changed when I began receiving enthusiastic letters from him describing his flying lessons and then, the purchase of a 1931 open cockpit biplane.  He even had an artist paint “Lady Summer” on its cowling for my 15th birthday.  Intrigued by his letters, pictures of his biplane, and books by Richard Bach, I asked him if I might come to stay with him and learn to fly. He sent me a postcard with a line drawing of a Waco ASO on which he’d written “Come on down!” And I did.

“soloed at age 16….”

I began flying lessons in the Student Prince, and soloed in August of 1985 at the age of 16.  Dad and I spent time together barnstorming on the Pacific coast. We’d land at small airports, hang a banner and start hopping rides.  We’d sleep under the wings at night.  It was a magical time…..

Two weeks prior to my private checkride, my father died unexpectedly. I received support from our local airport community when everyone, even the fry cook at the airport cafe, donated and raised enough money for me to complete my training and earn my pilots license.  At age 17, I had become the unlikely owner of an extremely rare airplane.  Even though it was a struggle to support, I never once considered selling the Student Prince. I pumped avgas, I waited tables, and fished commercially in Alaska.  I lost count of how many times I was threatened with hangar eviction due to late payments, but I always managed to squeak by.  It astonishes me now to look back on it all.  Youthful bliss coupled with determination I suppose….At 19 I earned my commercial license and promptly put the Student Prince to work hopping rides as Dad and I once did.  So many strangers put their trust in my youthful hands and it was my privilege to introduce them to the thrill of open cockpit flight.  I met so many people, had so many adventures, and learned so much from the Student Prince.

25 years later, the Student Prince has recently emerged from a several years long complete restoration.  It is better than new, and I am rediscovering it again.  As with any first love, there is the exhilaration of reuniting, the ease of familiarity, and the reconnecting with a deep love gained over so much life that it is poignant beyond words. As always, when it comes the two of us, I am the student, and it is my Prince.

I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with my story. And that’s the Readers Digest short version! At any rate, I also own a 1946 Cessna 120. I am an international corporate jet captain, qualified in 3 different jets.  And I am also a designated pilot examiner.  But really, I’m still just a messy haired, greasy jean wearing, biplane pilot!  Thank you all for such a fun organization, I look forward to meeting some new “sky sisters” soon!

Tailwinds,
Summer Martell

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26 Comments

  1. January 25, 2012, 8:22 pm   /  Reply

    A Friend of mine Joe in PT just received his license from you and we had a wonderful time reliving the flight test. I am looking forward to being his first passenger in a tour of the visible Olympics. Joe was very proud of his accomplishment and displayed comfortable knowledge of his abilities. Thank you for proving it to him. What more can one ask from a test? Looking forward to the flight.

    Leif

    • Mary Sherhart
      January 26, 2012, 11:30 am   /  Reply

      Ditto to Leif’s comments. I am also a friend of Joe’s and he is on cloud 9. Can’t tell you how many glowing things he had to say about you, Summer!

  2. Vanessa Nelson
    October 12, 2011, 1:53 pm   /  Reply

    Summer,
    My dad was hangared at Evergreen Field for decades, and through a series of events, I happen to have copies of the sign-up sheets for the airshows there for 1984 & 85. I looked through them, and found your Student Prince, signed in for the Aug. 1984 airshow as 10686, Student Prince 1931 Biplane, pilot’s name? “Flyin’ Bryan” it says. I’d love to scan the page and email it to you. My email is vanessa@duelinsopranos.com.
    Vanessa Nelson
    Portland, Or
    J-3 Cub pilot based at Twin Oaks

  3. Linda Melhoff
    September 9, 2011, 9:16 pm   /  Reply

    Hi Summer,
    I was talking about you at the airport this morning with memories of working in the hangar at Quilleyute and hearing 3 women announce their intention to land. I was so happy to meet you and your “Pt. Townsend gang” and will never forget the ride in your precious Prince.
    Rich and I have restored an original WACO Taperwing that we keep at Lenhardt’s Air Haven in Oregon. We have wondered about you and the great group of pilots who used to visit us. My friend, Vanessa Jump Nelson, told me to look for you here. We would love to have you visit us. Please pass our greetings along to any who may remember us.

  4. Jeanne MacPherson
    August 14, 2011, 11:45 am   /  Reply

    Summer,
    I just read an article about you in an aviation publication.
    Most excellent! I wish I was in Dayton to meet you!
    Judy Birchler, look at the magnitude of amazement that you have done!

    And Summer, on your way back home I have a guest room in Helena, MT.
    Jeanne

  5. Forrest Beck
    August 10, 2011, 11:36 pm   /  Reply

    Hey Summer,

    Saw your write-up in the Leader and am so happy for you. You look like you are in a very good place. Have a great time and I hope our paths cross again.

  6. Gail
    July 18, 2011, 9:55 pm   /  Reply

    Hey Summer,

    If you will be passing by Cheyenne and want to check on Sandy’s old Bücker, let me know. We’ll divert you slightly south to Longmont, CO. You checked Doedo out in it when he bought it out of Arlington. Hope to see you.
    Gail

  7. Sneha
    June 26, 2011, 10:11 am   /  Reply

    Hey Summer!

    Welcome to our fantastic website! 🙂 That’s such a heart warming story and one of the most inspirational ones I’ve read in a long time!

    🙂 Thanks a mill for sharing!

    • Summer Martell
      June 27, 2011, 7:51 pm   /  Reply

      Dear Sneha,
      Thank you so much for the warm welcome and the positive response on my story. I am so happy you enjoyed it. I am toying with the idea of writing a book, and responses like yours inspire me.

      Thanks,

      Summer Martell

      • Susan
        June 30, 2011, 5:33 am   /  Reply

        Write a book! I did – – it’s great fun… especially using something like Blurb.com — Wrote one about 663Y & 863V — wrote another one for the 50th Anniversary of the National Waco Club — the hardest part is gathering all the photos!

  8. Bill Salmon
    June 6, 2011, 8:28 pm   /  Reply

    Summer, it was great talking to you and Kay. Love the plane! Next time you two are in Dallas we have to do Nate’s (Kay Knows the place). You can always reach me at the office or on my cell. But, hay, you “have my number” now! If I am up that way I want a ride! Blue side up if you want to..safe trip!

    • Summer Martell
      June 7, 2011, 12:57 am   /  Reply

      Bill,

      It was lovely as always getting to talk to you. Yes! Would love to get together and I would love to take you for a biplane ride! Thank you for taking the time to read the article and for your nice comments. 🙂

  9. June 5, 2011, 9:24 am   /  Reply

    A wonderful story and a beautiful airplane. Thanks Summer and Judy for bringing it to us.

    • Summer Martell
      June 6, 2011, 12:54 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you Jill! I am happy to be amongst such wonderful ladies.

  10. Sharon Tinkler
    June 4, 2011, 12:16 pm   /  Reply

    Summer,
    So glad to meet you. Your story really resonates with a lot of us I bet. And like everyone else, we want to meet you and your student prince also. Do you know Russell Williams in the Seattle area? Antique Airfield guy and restorer and certain to take an interest in your Prince. Your Prince would steal the hearts of the Antique Airfield fly in over Labor Day weekend in Iowa. (antiqueairfield.com)
    We are located in Tullahoma, TN, with lots of runways and half of them grass. We are on the field, so I would issue you the standard invitation available to all of the womenlovetaildraggers – C’mon by any time and stay with us if you need to. Second taxiway to the west on the E/W grass, cross the street, proceed to light brown hangar.

    • Summer Martell
      June 6, 2011, 1:03 pm   /  Reply

      Dear Sharon,

      I too look very much forward to meeting you and the other LLT ladies! I really appreciate how generous and supportive you and several of the other ladies have been toward me. I may just take you up on your offer. I am working toward flying out in August, (See my comments to Judy) and I should know by mid July if my sched will allow. Fingers crossed! No I don’t believe I know Russell, but it’s likely he knows of the Prince (small world in the Puget Sound). Until soon,

      Summer

  11. June 3, 2011, 9:31 pm   /  Reply

    Hey, Summer, thanks for your note and so happy to connect with you. We would LOVE for you and your Student Prince to join us at the lady taildraggers flyin this summer at Moraine! Please do your best to make it happen! I know it’s a tremendous deal to fly an antique, very rare aircraft that far but what an amazing experience it would be – for you and all of us. I’ve heard from Susan and understand you two have been texting or tweeting or somehow communicating back and forth – all good!! You have hit the mother load of great contacts with Susan and her wonderful husband Andy and they will do everything in their power to help you in any way they can. I’m in Indiana, which you must cross to get to Ohio, so I’m ready help you reach the finish line too! We’re all excited about the possibility of meeting you and your baby!!

    • Summer Martell
      June 6, 2011, 12:59 pm   /  Reply

      Dear Judy,

      Thanks very much for the generous offer to stay, I may just take you up on that! I have asked for time off work to come to Ohio, and invited my best pilot girlfriend to come with me. I am a corporate pilot, so not sure yet if I will get the time, but should know by mid July what the sched holds. In the meantime, I am starting to do some flight planning. It’s been a dream of mine to fly the Prince across the US, and how appropriate that my sisters in the sky will be the impetus and support to make it happen. I am fortunate and honored to be part of this wonderful sisterhood!

      And Susan and Andy have been beyond supportive and welcoming. She is a mountain of energy, resources, and enthusiasm. Can’t wait to meet you all. I’ll keep you posted.

      Summer

  12. tina thomas
    June 3, 2011, 9:09 am   /  Reply

    Wonderful and moving story! So glad you were determined to continue flying and keep the airplane. Look forward to meeting you and Student Prince in the future!!

  13. Summer Martell
    June 3, 2011, 8:36 am   /  Reply

    Thank you kindly Lisa. I also look forward to meeting you in the not too distant future.

    Best,

    Summer Martell

  14. Susan
    June 3, 2011, 5:49 am   /  Reply

    Summer…

    What an awesome story is right! I love your determination and grit and to share such a wonderful time with your dad…. truly inspirational! I know he still flies with you all the time! Welcome to our group and thank you sharing your wonderful story!!

    Susan

    • Summer Martell
      June 3, 2011, 8:28 am   /  Reply

      Thank you for your nice comment Susan. I really appreciate what you said about my Dad still flying with me. I believe he really does, in so many ways. I hope I get to meet you one day…

      Best,

      Summer Martell

  15. June 2, 2011, 5:22 pm   /  Reply

    WOW. What a cool plane. Never seen or heard of one before. LOVE IT. You GOT TO COME to the Idaho women’s fly in this July. Is it too far to fly in an open cockpit? Check out my Woman Wise Airmanship Adventure on this site (Or my website at http://www.mindelevations.com). I’ve asked Gail Schipper from CO to fly her Bucker Jungman but not sure that’s realistic. But got to ask… It would be super cook to see your lovely plane at this women fly in. AOPA, EAA, and WIA are sending writers so your plane could be in the articles. WOW. Think about it. Lots of fun recreation, learning, and new friends…

    • Summer Martell
      June 3, 2011, 8:35 am   /  Reply

      Dear Christina,

      I am happy to hear you like the airplane; it really is special on so many levels. I would love to join you all at Smiley Creek. I’ve actually flown in there before, it’s lovely. And no, it’s not too far to fly an open cockpit. In fact, nowhere is if one has the range and the gumption! Just yesterday I was looking at it but alas, I will be flying a jet to Mexico and missing out on the fun of joining you all. Have a wonderful event, I know you will. I look forward to seeing photos and hearing stories. Thank you for inviting me. Perhaps I will host a LLT fly in here in my neck of the woods……get you all down into an oxygen rich environment!

      Until soon,

      Summer Martell

  16. Lisa Martin
    June 2, 2011, 11:44 am   /  Reply

    That is an awesome story to inspire us all. I do hope to meet you some day 🙂

    • Summer Martell
      June 3, 2011, 9:13 am   /  Reply

      Thanks Lisa, I am happy to liked it. I hope to meet you too!

      Summer

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