"Derby Pilot Races Stork"

A pioneering feminine chemist and aviator nonetheless finds pleasure within the blue skies of Northeast Ohio: Girls’s Historical past Month

CONCORD, Ohio. Nothing was ever off limits to Caroline Naumann Lucht – nicknamed Connie.

Rising up in Painesville within the Thirties – an solely youngster to a father who longed for a son – she was bombarded with baseball bats, mitts and electrical shocks. So when she requested her father to go to varsity in an period when few girls did, he did not bat an eye fixed and inspired her to get a level in chemistry.

I blame every thing on my father. Every part I requested him to do, he agreed. So I realized to do every thing, Luhta stated, sitting within the lounge at Harmony Airpark and searching over the snow-covered runway of the small airfield she owns. He by no means as soon as stated I could not do one thing as a result of I used to be a woman, so I grew up believing I may.

From 1952 to 1968, Lucht labored at Customary Oils Analysis Laboratory (SOHIO) in Warrensville Heights, the place she developed checks for petroleum merchandise and infrequently traveled to refineries to show male staff learn how to carry out them. She has printed a number of articles about her work in trade journals.

Paid $15 an hour lower than her male colleagues, she typically repaid by ready by the door of a lab with heavy tools till considered one of her gallant colleagues opened it for me. It was enjoyable.

When she was invited to fly with a pal on a small aircraft to Canada, Luhta took sandwiches along with her. At lunchtime, the pilot requested her to fly the aircraft whereas he ate.

Once I stated I could not fly, he confirmed me learn how to hold the aircraft stage and stage, and shortly I requested if he thought I may study to fly, too, she recalled. He stated positive, in order quickly as we landed I signed up for classes. In these days, it was fairly unusual for a lady to fly an airplane.

Luhta realized to fly on the now-defunct Casement Airport in Painesville and earned her pilot’s license in 1962 on the age of 31, regardless of studying to fly with out realizing learn how to fly an airplane.

The teacher who taught me had a damaged a part of the aircraft, so I by no means realized what a differential was (used to keep up a relentless pitch – retains the aircraft straight and reduces the pressure on the pilots). I truly needed to flip this aircraft round to take off and land it. I did not know any completely different, so I did not complain.

After receiving her license, Lucht started flying from Harmony Airport, the place she met and finally married Adolph Lucht, who constructed a 2,200-foot runway on 70 acres of an previous dairy farm alongside Harmony-Hambden Street in 1954.

The couple was married for nearly 25 years earlier than his loss of life in 1993. Since then, she alone manages the air park.

Connie ran an airline whereas her husband centered on the development enterprise. When she wasn’t sweeping flooring and fueling planes, she was giving piloting classes. She additionally did the bookkeeping for each corporations.

Their daughter, Cathy, grew up enjoying within the air parks workplace whereas Luhta labored.

Like my father, Adolph all the time believed that I may do greater than I ever thought attainable. As a result of I did not need to disappoint him, I simply did no matter he instructed me to do, she defined.

Along with his help, Lucht was quickly competing within the Powder Puff Derby—a coast-to-coast all-female race—along with her greatest pal and co-driver, Patricia Collier. Collectively, they competed in 10 Powder Puff races, together with one when Luhta was seven months pregnant.

The Lake County Telegraph ran a front-page story about Connie Luhta competing in one of many Powder Puff Derby cross-country races whereas seven months pregnant. (Photograph by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

I had the complete approval of my obstetrician, who was additionally a pilot. He stated he trusted me extra to race than to fly business as a result of if one thing occurred, he knew I’d land and go to the hospital. His solely caveat was that I had to make use of oxygen after I flew above 5,000 toes, she defined.

Pat and I had been carrying matching maternity outfits at that race. We thought it was a scream.

To lighten the load of the aircraft for one race, Lucht and Collier purchased 4 paper attire from the Scott Paper Firm, which produced a line of paper clothes as a publicity stunt.

We had been all the time on the lookout for methods to lighten the aircraft so we may fly quicker and thought paper attire would actually do the trick. The issue was that it obtained scorching within the cabin and as we sweated our attire began to stay to the seat, which induced an entire different drawback once we landed. We needed to wriggle out of them and alter into different garments earlier than we may get off the aircraft and meet the press.

Paper dresses

The Scott Paper Firm launched a line of paper clothes as a publicity stunt. Connie Luhta and co-pilot Pat Collier purchased the attire to put on throughout the races to avoid wasting weight on the aircraft. Sadly, the attire melted on the aircraft’s seat because the pilots sweated, inflicting an embarrassing touchdown state of affairs. Connie donated the surviving gown to the Worldwide Girls’s Air and Area Museum. (photograph by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com)

Luhta stated their greatest end was third place, which wasn’t dangerous since most derbies have between 50 and 100 groups. I nonetheless have that trophy right here someplace.

Her father was so proud that he insisted that reporters masking her races insert her maiden identify into the articles in order that her buddies in northeast Ohio would know who she was.

However Lukhta was not glad with one crossing of the nation. She additionally competed in a number of intercontinental races often known as Angel Derbys.

I obtained to see a lot of the nation and the world that I would by no means have seen due to racing as a result of it put us in so many fascinating locations, she stated.

However Lukhta was profitable not solely within the air.

She is the longest serving trustee within the historical past of Harmony Township, together with a number of years as chairman – she held her seat for 28 years earlier than retiring as a result of she thought residents may not acknowledge my age. after I run for one more time period. Do you suppose 88 is just too previous?

As well as, Luhta, now 92, served as a trustee of the now-defunct Northeast Ohio Basic Hospital in Madison.

Luhta was instrumental in opening the Worldwide Girls’s Air and Area Museum at Burke Lakefront Airport in 1996.

For years, Lucht traveled from her dwelling in Harmony to Centerville, Ohio, to volunteer as a tour information and provides shows when the museum was housed within the dwelling of Asahel Wright, a great-uncle of the Wright brothers. With house at a premium, Luhta appeared for the very best place to deal with the museum’s displays and lobbied the Cleveland Metropolis Council and Airport Board for house within the foyer and concourse. She labored on the board of administrators of museums for greater than ten years.

For her achievements within the air and on behalf of the museum, Luhta was honored final September with the primary Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Ohio Senior Residents Corridor of Fame in 2016, the place her solely want was to have her image taken along with her co-authors. draftee, Annie Glenn.

It nonetheless owns the runway, though the airfield is now thought-about uncontrolled, that means nobody is working the radio anymore to direct pilots to the bottom. Pilots take off and land at will. The 2 hangers nonetheless accommodate 10 tenant plane, every with their very own keys to entry the hangers and the workplace.

Connie Lucht

Connie Luhta stands in entrance of one of many two hangers on the tiny runway. It additionally had 10 tenants who saved their plane at Harmony Airpark. (photograph by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com)

“I make sufficient earnings to pay my property taxes and that is it,” she defined sadly. That is why every thing right here seems to be just a little shabby.

Luhta has no plans to retire or search for a successor. Neither her daughter nor her stepson are occupied with transitioning. She stated the piece of land that has seen 1000’s of planes fly out and in of it over time will probably at some point develop into a residential growth.

Concorde Air Park

Harmony Airpark is a 2,200-foot airstrip constructed on 70 acres of a former dairy farm. Adolf Luhta constructed the airfield within the mid-Fifties. Right now it’s run by Connie, who taught flying classes there for years. (photograph by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com)

She nonetheless misses the planes she bought when she had most cancers. Her favourite planes to fly had been the low-wing Piper Cherokee and the Piper Aztec. She winks as she says I believe I may go my medical and get my license again.

I used to be simply fortunate, she stated as she walked throughout the snow-covered floor to the hanger. I had an excellent life.

Now, when requested what her favourite reminiscence was, Luhta simply smiles and says simply flying, in fact.

I simply beloved being within the air. There’s nothing extra peaceable than flying over the countryside. I keep in mind at some point I appeared down and realized that completely nothing was essential when it may very well be so small out of skinny air. It has given me a number of peace of thoughts over time.

Author: ZeroToHero

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