AvStop Magazine Online
Blacks In Aviation
No person in the arena of private flying demonstrated that courage and inner force like Neal V. Loving. An aeronautical engineer, designer/builder and pilot, Loving's courage overcame double tragedy; a crippling air accident and to a certain extent, racism in an industry not open to African Americans. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Loving's interest in aviation came at the age of 10, the result of a losing argument with his older brother over Neal Loving's right to build an outdoor radio antenna adjacent to his brother's. During this argument, Neal Loving's attention turned to a low-flying de Havilland DH-4 biplane, and his brother quickly suggested that Loving change his interest from radios to aviation. "In retrospect, my brother really did me a favor; his idea changed the direction of my life forever," said Neal Loving in his autobiography; Loving's Love.
Loving went from reading all he could get his hands on about aviation to building model airplanes (the first of which at the time little sister sat on). Neal Loving built the first of his full-sized airplanes in 1934. Using articles from Popular Mechanics and Modern Mechanics, he designed and built an airplane-type ground trainer, made from plywood from a large furniture packing crate. Loving next designed and built three gliders before the faithful accident in 1944. On Sunday morning, July 30, 1944, Loving was scheduled to hold a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) cadet training session. The day before, Loving had found a loose seat bracket on his glider but was not able to make the necessary repairs before leaving for his afternoon work shift at the Ford Motor Company he later returned to the Wayne Aircraft Company to check on the repairs which were supposed to have been finished by his partner's brother. Loving worked into the night until 5:00 a.m. before the work was completed. Fatigued and with two hours of sleep, he returned to the glider shop later that morning to take the glider to a nearby airport.
Loving ignored four critical procedures upon arrival at Wings Airport where the cadets were to do their training: he didn't t check the status of a poorly- conditioned airfield; didn't have a major portion of the glider tow rope, which was left in the shop: didn't pay attention to the wind blowing across the runway meaning a loss of precious altitude while compensating for lift; and tailed to set the calibrated spring at zero, resulting in the airspeed indicator registering 10 miles per hour (mph) higher than actual airspeed.
After being airborne for a time and preparing to return to the airport, Loving made an 180 degree turn to the left, blocking hiss view of the runway; which resulted in the glider being pushed off centerline. In his haste, Loving decided to land on an adjacent runway without inspecting it first. Upon seeing a rise of two feet high dirt, making landing unsuitable, he decided to make a course correction to return towards the original runway "My air-speed indicator indicated a normal 35 mph (actually only 25 mph), so I increased my bank angle. to get back to the runway;'' he said in his book. As the necessary control pressure were applied the glider stalled and immediately entered a left tailspin. The earth whirled furiously around as I plunged almost vertically towards the `ground....I tried to desperately recover. Pushing the stick forward with ailerons neutral and full right rudder stopped the spin, `but now the ground rushed up to meet me before the glider could level off," he said. Diving into the ground, Loving's craft broke apart, crushing both his feet.
Loving would be rushed to a hospital where he would spend six plus months, losing a portion of both legs in the process. However, it would not be long after his discharge from the medical facility that Loving would return to flying. A year later (1945) Loving, along with a business associate, Earsly Taylor, would form the Wayne School of Aeronautics at Detroit City Airport to teach returning Black war veterans the art of flying. And, a year after that Loving began plans For building his first airplane. On New- Year's Day of 1949 thc race r, W12-1, began being built. An inverted gull-wing design, the racer took to the air on a cool, sunny morning in early August of 1950. Loving would enter the racer, dubbed "Loving's Love", in races during 1951 and then take it on travels throughout the United States and Jamaica. Neal Loving would later close the: Wayne School and become an aeronautical engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratories, Flight Dynamics Laboratory. He would retire some 21 years later.
To read more about the life of Neil Loving, obtain a copy of Loving's autobiography entitled "Loving's Love; A Black American's Experience in Aviation", published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in Washington, D.C.
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