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The History of Air Explorer Squadron 3

Part 1
September 8, 2004

by Ralph Truglio, Jim Upton, Josh Lober

Chartered on December 17, 1951 by Max Mahan and Homer HessFred Maw was soon after recruited as the Squadron’s first Flight Instructor.  With the objective of exposing young men to aviation, the concept for the Squadron came from members of the North Hollywood Optimist Club, which included at that time Mahan and Hess.  Sometime later, Fred Maw also became a member of the North Hollywood Optimists.

The first flight training was conducted for $4.00 per hour in a borrowed Piper J-3 Cub (N98795) and Fred Maw’s Ercoupe (N3107H).  Squadron members could choose between the Ercoupe and the Cub for training, and were typically given a familiarization ride in each aircraft before deciding.  Cub N98795 was later destroyed in a ground accident with no injuries to the occupants.  Following the Cub incident, a borrowed 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ (N85564) was used to support squadron flight training.

A 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ (N1759E) had been abandoned at Whiteman airport and was to be auctioned off for the back tie-down fees of $150.  Squadron 3 purchased the Aeronca Champ and ferried it over to San Fernando Airport where Squadron Advisor Ray ‘Shorty’ Gillingham had an aircraft maintenance hangar.  The Aeronca Champ was completely refurbished by Squadron 3 Explorers working under Shorty’s supervision. Upon completion, it served as the Squadron’s primary training aircraft until 1958, at which time it was again refurbished in preparation for its sale.

In 1959, Squadron 3 bought an Ercoupe 415C (N41889, all metal) and shortly thereafter, a second Ercoupe 415C (N2378H, Seconite covered) was also purchased.  A Fairchild PT-23 was donated to the Squadron in 1960 by William Perkinson, a friend of the Cagan Family.  It was parked next to Champ N1759E at Whiteman for a short time, while being flight evaluated by the instructors in the Squadron.  It was determined to be a poor instruction aircraft, both because of its large size and a high fuel and maintenance cost. It was sold for $600 and the money was put to use in the Squadron treasury.

The two Ercoupes  were used in service of the Squadron for a number of years, but were eventually determined to be unsuitable as training aircraft.  In 1961, both Ercoupes were sold and the proceeds (along with the $600 from the PT-23) were used to purchase a 1959 Cessna 150 (N5668E), which was used in the service of Squadron 3 until 1974.  At that time, a 1963 Cessna 172 (N1942S) was purchased and used until 19??, when a 1974 Cessna 172 (N13101) was purchased.  N13101 is the current Squadron training aircraft.

In 1955, Ralph Truglio, a former Air Force Pilot and Math Teacher at San Fernando High School was recruited by S.F. High’s Principal to be the advisor of a school Aviation Club named ‘The Afterburners’.  The ‘Afterburners’ involvement in aviation was limited to non-flight activities.  However, it turned out that most members of the ‘Afterburners’ were also members of Squadron 3.  Fred Maw took Ralph for a flight in the Squadron airplane, after which Ralph agreed to reinstate his Pilot’s License and begin Instructing with Squadron 3.  In 2004, after 49 years of service to Squadron 3, Ralph remains the Squadron’s Chief Flight Instructor.  From the time of his recruitment into the Squadron in 1955 until present day, Ralph Truglio has donated close to 6,000 flight training hours and countless ground school hours teaching Southern California’s youth to fly.

Throughout the years, there have been numerous Flight Instructors that have donated time to the Squadron.  Many of these have been Airline Pilots and former Squadron members. In addition to Ralph Truglio and Fred Maw, others that have participated as Squadron 3 Flight Instructors include; Ray ‘Shorty‘ GillinghamHenry HerringBill CatlinJerry DetwilerJack HollebekeBill Spreuer, Gary StearnsHoward ChaseSteve LoberTed Moyer, Tom BileyBryon Zambello and many others.