Fifty Years to the Day After His First Flying Lesson
Frank Kingston Smith is
now a permanent part of the landscape at Wings Field in Suburban
Northeast Philadelphia. On June 2nd the ashes of the late aviation
enthusiast, lawyer, author, speaker, and trade association
executive were spread from a Cessna 170B flying over the airport,
fifty years to the day after his very first logged lesson at Wings,
June 2, 1955. Smith died on September 3, 2003 from a long battle
with Alzheimer's disease, and it was his wish to that his ashes be
spread at his beloved Wings Field.
Smith's two eldest sons, Frank Kingston Smith, Jr. and Doug,
participated in the event. Marianne H. Smith, Frank's bride for 65
years, and youngest son, Greg, were unable to attend. All three
sons--all accomplished pilots--took their first airplane rides at
historic Wings Field, which celebrated its 75th anniversary on May
The ashes were spread thanks to George Watson and his Wings
Field-based Cessna 170B. The Smith Family expresses their heartfelt
thanks to Mr. Watson and to the owners and officials of Wings Field
for their cooperation.
After serving in World War II combat as a U.S. Navy PT Boat
officer in the South Pacific, Smith graduated from law school and
became a successful criminal trial attorney and partner in a
Philadelphia law firm. Smith bought a nine-year-old Cessna 140 and
learned to fly at Wings Field in 1955 as a way to relax from his
job as a lawyer. Flying changed his life, and he progressively
redirected his energy and enthusiasm to general aviation.
In 1959 Smith co-founded the Lawyer Pilots Bar Association, and
in 1965, he left his law practice to become the executive director
and later president of the National Aviation Trades (now
Transportation) Association in Washington, D.C.
Smith became of the most prolific aviation writers of the 1950s,
1960s, and 1970s. His columns in AOPA Pilot, Flying and Sport
Aviation magazines were often the first page that pilots would turn
to. He also was the author of many books, notably I'd Rather Be
Flying, Weekend Pilot, and Flights of Fancy. Later, he wrote two
aviation history books, Legacy of Wings, the story of Harold
Pitcairn, and Aviation and Pennsylvania for the Franklin Institute
in Philadelphia. In total, Smith wrote over 1,000 articles, 16
books, and gave thousands of speeches.
In 1997, Smith received the Max Karant Lifetime Achievement
Award from AOPA for his promotion and support of private aviation.
Two years later, he received the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award
from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) for his significant
contributions to aviation. Previously, Smith also received over 100
awards & citations from aviation organizations nationwide.
Smith was a Private Pilot with Multi-Engine & Instrument
Ratings with over 10,000 hours logged.