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Paul Smith (AOP) Passing

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Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Jul 3, 2007
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I know Keri-Ann posted the news and I responded to it, but per Paul’s request, I am posting his farewell and details of this tragic loss to our J-3/L4 community


I’ve been dreading this day. Paul and I had spoken several times during his recent health struggle. He was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia a few months ago. He had asked me to refrain from mentioning it to anyone, until after he passed. He was undergoing treatment requiring daily blood transfusions and was experiencing difficulty using his hands. He attempted, unsuccessfully to post a farewell here a couple of weeks ago. He asked me to post in his stead when the time came.

Over the last months he had begun liquidating his vast collection in order that his wife, Kathy, wouldn’t be burdened with the task and dealing with the type folks who frequently appear when such events happen. I know he had many historic weapons in addition to his famous AOP display. Yes, this effort included his much beloved and historically accurate L-4.

Paul reached out to me to help sell his L-4 to someone who would appreciate it for the combat veteran and piece of flying history. It just so happened I knew exactly such a person who was in the market, and had been for many years waiting for the right L-4 to come along. Consequently, the plane was never on the open market. They buyer, who signed a letter of intent months ago recently traveled back up to Maryland to finalize the sale when it became apparent the end was near. Included with the sale were Paul’s collection of spare parts, tools and equipment to keep the L-4 flying.

Folks may not be aware or recall, Paul had some minor damage when the plane was in annual a few months ago which he was unable healthwise to repair. He found a reputable A&P/IA to undertake those repairs and a fresh annual in order to make ferrying the plane home to Alabama possible.

The buyer was planning to load on a trailer and tow it home. Both Paul and I counseled him it was better to have it repaired and annualed and he agreed as he personally lacked the experience to do it himself nor had a local facility-A&P to do so. Consequently, that is where the plane is now, being finished up…and likely having a Grove brake conversion completed prior to pick-up.

The buyer is a long-time friend of mine and a retired Army Field Artillery Colonel. We met while both assigned to Ft Sill, OK at the airport where we both hung out in the mid 90s. He is a huge history fan and owns and maintains a pristine Ford GPW and long searched for a comparable L-4. I expect Paul’s L-4 is in very good hands and will be well treated. In fact, as a low time tailwheel pilot, the buyer asked me to accompany him on the trip to retrieve it and move it to its new home. He was savvy enough to realize he wears not adequately prepared to go solo. Also, I’m insurable with about 1000 hours in make and model (J-3) and 2000 tailwheel. The trip should be good experience and will give him ten hours loggable time towards insurance. He will also be getting more dual with his CFI once home.

Oddly, while having never met Paul face-to-face, we became good friends over the last 10-15 years. We emailed frequently, shared posts here and on Facebook J-3 and L-4 pages. We talked extensively on the phone many times over the years talking maintenance, equipment and history. He was a treasure trove of historical knowledge. I hope I was able to help him a tenth as much as he helped me. I sure will miss my friend Paul. It was an honor to have helped him through the sale of his treasured L4 and it will be an honor to help bring it to its new home, and I think as Paul hoped, I’ll be able to keep an eye on it too.

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