Clay Joseph

Back to Interviews Page

Could you tell me a little about yourself?

I was born and raised in Pittsburg, Kansas. In fact, my mom and dad are still living there. Dad is 92 and Mom is 90. I went through the grade school, high school and graduated from Kansas State College in Pittsburg. While I was still in college a company came down to interview the graduating seniors for jobs. So I got a job as a pharmaceutical salesman. I wanted to start working as soon as possible because Sharon and I were married. So, I got to work the day after graduation and a week or two later they moved us to Springfield which was in 1964. Because of my hard work in Springfield, I was greatly rewarded by the pharmaceutical company and was able to retire at age 50.

What did you do after you retired?

The first thing I did was to go out to the airport and see if they could teach a 50 year-old how to fly. They said, “Well sure.” I started taking flying lessons and that is how I learned how to fly. The first thing I did was to find a plane. I had a friend who had a plane but couldn’t afford to pay the expenses alone. Since I didn’t have the money to buy a plane upfront I split the cost of the plane between my friend, another partner and me. So, I started flying with Sharon and flying to the kids’ a lot. We even went to Springdale, Arkansas just to eat breakfast and then come back. It was a lot of fun. After that, one of my two partners wanted to move on to a bigger plane, and the other just wanted to quit flying, he was just too busy. So, I ended up buying the other two guys out and I still have that plane by myself.

What made you interested in flying?

Well, my mom says that I was always throwing paper planes. I loved to go to the airport to watch the planes take off. When I retired I said, “Well, it is such a hard trip to drive to Atlanta and Nashville to see my kids so maybe I’ll learn to fly to cut the time of the trip down.” We started doing that. Sharon’s first time she was a white-knuckler but after a while she got used to it and even fell asleep on me.

When you wanted to start flying what did you have to do?

Well, first I had to take a flight physical. You have to get two licenses, a medical license and a pilot’s license. I had to get the medical to take the lessons and then I went there two to three times a week and flew for an hour with an instructor. You had to have flown with an instructor for 40 hours and then you had to fly quite a bit by yourself to get your instrument rating so I could fly in bad weather. It took me about 70 hours, 10 more than normal, to get all the licenses I needed but I got the highest score in quite a while out there. To fly by instrument, they put goggles on you so you can’t see out of the plane. You then must fly by the dash, your instruments. That was hard and it took quite a while but I got it done by 70 hours. You don’t intentionally fly into bad weather but sometimes you do and that is what your instruments are for, so you can fly in clouds and then get above them.

Did you provide a service in flying this plane?

We did fly several people to Cincinnati to the burn unit and we took children to the burn unit where they had to go back and repeat a lot of their surgeries. They call that Angel Flight because we gave them a free trip to Cincinnati and back. Once I took a doctor and his brother to Little Rock because he had to have a brain scan. They really appreciated that.

So, flying for you was just a hobby?

Right, just something I’ve always wanted to do. It is peaceful up there. I used to pray a lot while I was up there. I’d thank the Lord for creating a beautiful earth that I could look down on. I say, “You sure did a good job on this part of the country.” When I was flying over the Ozark Mountains I’d say, “This is a good job You did here.” I was always thanking Him for a safe trip and the beauty of it. Sunrises and sunsets are just absolutely remarkable. I took my son one time. He had missed a flight after coming to visit us because of bad weather. I said to him, “We can get to Nashville, flying, in less than three hours.” So, the next morning, we woke up at three o’clock because he had to be at Nashville at seven for work. So we took off and while we were up there the sun came up and it was absolutely gorgeous.

Do you still plan on flying?

Yes, but because of my health I can’t at the moment. Next time I go to my liver doctor I will see if he will write a letter saying I can fly. Once I am healthy enough I will have to go through some retraining but it will be worth it.

Back to Interviews Page