International convention for the Short Wing Pipe Club will be held in Grayling next week
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Dozens of vintage airplanes and longtime pilots will converge on Grayling next week to celebrate the history of the Short Wing Piper planes.
Based out Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, the Piper Aircraft Corporation built thousands of Piper Cubs used by the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. The company also built training gliders, and aircraft components for other manufacturers, and steel masts for mounting radar antennas.
Following the war, the company manufactured thousands of airplane parts with the belief that people would have the itch to learn to fly.
“They thought that after the war, they were really going to be able to sell these planes, and it didn’t work out,” said Malcom Garry Bulter, president of the Michigan Chapter of the Short Wing Piper Club who lives in Lovells.
The Short Wing Pipers came in two or four seat models with different landing gear configurations. There were well known for introducing people to flying because of their slow speeds and short traveling distances.
“They all have a similar look,” Butler said.
The fuselage of the planes are covered with fabric, which is then sealed with several coats of paint.
“That total seals it and it looks like metal,” Butler said.
The planes were built starting in 1940 and were phased out in 1964, with the Colt serving as the last model.
Butler purchased a Short Wing Piper after serving two tours of duty during the Vietnam War as a tugboat captain in U.S. Army.
“People don’t know that the Army has more boats than the Navy,” Butler said. “Their’s are just bigger.”
Butler used his bonus pay for serving in the war to fund for flying lessons and to purchase a Short Wing Piper, which he owned from 1975 to 2001.
Butler worked as a tool and die maker and engineer for General Motors.
He crashed his plane in 1981, and rebuilt it in 1999.
“Building a new house and two kids later, then I went ahead and rebuilt it,” he said.
Butler sold the plane to Sam Henderson, who lives in Alabama.
“I retired and at the time, it seemed like the right thing to do,” he said. “Then, I ended getting another airplane.”
The International Chapter of the Short Wing Piper Club will hold its 2018 convention in Grayling from June 25 to June 29. Planes will be based at the Crawford County Air Terminal.
“They’ll be at the airfield, and people are encouraged to come out and see them,” Butler said.
Several members will stay at the Ramada Grayling Hotel & Conference Center and at area campgrounds.
“It’s a good thing for Grayling,” Butler said.
The community was picked to host the convention due to its central location in northern Michigan. The Grayling Visitor’s Bureau and Camp Grayling were also instrumental in bringing the convention to town.
People coming to the convention will receive a tour at Camp Grayling.
“Most are former military or were in the military, so we’re still interested in that,” Butler said. “We’re a pretty conservative group.”
Folks will also make their way to Alpena to visit the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Conventions have been held is several states located throughout the country. This is the third time a convention is being held in Michigan.
Previous international conventions were hosted in Traverse City, when the pilots took trips to view the Mackinac Bridge. A convention was also held at Sault Ste. Marie, as members flew to Mackinac Island for a tour.
“There’s always some sort of outings that go with the conventions,” Butler said.
The Michigan Chapter of the Short Wing Piper Club hosts six meeting throughout the year at various sites.
“When we were all younger, we used to go from one end of the state to the other,” Butler said.
The club is internationally based, and has about 3,000 members. At least 20 planes or more will come to Grayling for the convention. A total of 80 members or more will attend the convention.
“Every day, somebody shows up on the radar that is coming,” Butler said.