The transformation of N116HR from a former State Highway Patrol aircraft, now in routine flying club service, into an airborne tribute to Ohio’s aviation heritage, would largely be visualized with a new paint scheme. It was a fun challenge to try and give a nod to as many legendary connections as possible while crafting a design that was uniquely appealing yet classically tasteful. Red wings and the arrow (re-interpreted in blue) were preserved from the original patrol scheme. The tapering red, white, and blue striping evokes the distinct swallow-tail design of Ohio’s flag, while the white forward pointing stripe emulates the nose art of the Cessna 180 in which Jerry Mock, a housewife from Columbus, Ohio, became the first woman to fly around the world. The graphic just aft of the striping takes its inspiration from Columbus native Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI Hat-in-the Ring squadron emblem, with the ring formed by the outline of Ohio and the twin bowler hats a representative icon of the Wright Brothers. Underneath, the lunar boot print pays homage to Wapakoneta’s most famous son, Neil Armstrong.
The name “Friendship Flyer” is derived from what the Wright Brothers called their airplane as well as the space capsule of Ohio’s home-grown senator, John Glenn and the font replicates Friendship 7’s unique hand-painted script. The wheel pants sport the white splash characteristic of WACO biplanes that were initially produced at a factory just north of Dayton, which now serves as the company museum. The tail is branded with Cessna’s early logos for the iconic 182, while beneath the horizontal stabilizer are the logos of those who participated in the project. Bringing such a precisely detailed design for the exterior to life required a shop possessing equal parts artistic skill, technical craft, and enthusiastic commitment. Fortunately, Ohio could supply just the expertise needed at Dial Eastern States Aircraft Painting.
In a nondescript, unmarked hangar, at the far end of the sleepy airstrip known as Harrison County Airport (8G6), two maestros of aircraft painting can be found plying their craft. From the moment I finished my lengthy explanation of my vision for what I wanted to create in paint, Darrin and Mark were fully onboard and palpably excited about bringing it to life. Throughout the exterior makeover, I found that the deft mechanical hand of the former was perfectly complemented by the artist’s eye of the latter and the result was something greater than merely the sum of their contributions. In keeping with their spirit of excellence, every removable external piece of the aircraft, was, so that it could be prepped and painted separately. Toothbrushes painstakingly stripped paint around every rivet, inaccessible surfaces were opened to ensure complete paint coverage, each plastic faring was upgraded to fiberglass, and every fastener replaced with new stainless-steel hardware. High-quality Dupont Imron paint was selected to obviate the need for clear coating. To provide a better match and greater durability, they insisted on making stencils to paint the custom details, employing a decal only for the complex mid-body logo, thus enabling it to be removed, if desired, for a future sale. When the final strip of masking tape was pulled away, it was apparent to both craftsmen and customer that the intended artistic statement had been achieved, though their commitment to the project would not stop there.
Whether a hangover of a bygone era, a measure of pride in their work, or a signal of support for the vision, Darrin and Mark have continued to supply a level of customer service beyond all expectations. Sometime later, when a nose strut shimmy cracked the wheel pant, they crafted and painted a new one, and then went ahead and graciously repaired and restored the old one as a spare (perhaps also signaling a lack confidence in my piloting acumen). While the plane was in their shop for the swap, they lovingly scrutinized every square inch, asserting their right to address any nick, no matter how small, that had been acquired in the year that had passed. I do my part to honor their work as well, ensuring the Friendship Flyer receives a wipe down after every flight. Normally the task is done with Lemon Pledge and a microfiber cloth, though on occasion, I pull out aviation Simple Green to degrease the belly. This simple routine has the kept the paint job bug-free and looking like new, and never fails to inspire comments on whatever transient ramp we touch down at. On those occasions when Citation pilots have crossed a hot asphalt apron to check out the paint scheme on that most common of all airframes, I know we hit the mark.