Post War Birdmen

The craving to fly was like an addiction. Ed Lyons bought a surplus Canadian Fleet Biplane, a highly aerobatics two seat trainer powered by a five cylinder Kinner engine. He gave instruction to students at Pawling and Teterboro. He was determined to make a career in post war aviation and saw an opportunity to start a flying school on Long Island. Zahn, a potato farmer had vast flat acreage in Amityville on which he had a small landing strip for his plane. Ed made a deal to rent an empty tool house adjacent to the strip in order to start a flying school. Money was scarce and the Fleet was not an economical trainer. A 45 horsepower Franklin powered Piper was on the market for $800 and Ed asked me to be his partner. Edythe's father felt there was no future in aviation and it was too dangerous for me, a married man with children.

With GI money available for education for ex-servicemen, many with the yen to become pilots utilized the funds to learn to fly. Ed soon had more students than he could handle alone. Having an instructor and commercial license, I helped Ed on weekends, instructing and helping in the planes maintenance. Students paid $10 an hour for instruction. Gas consumption was less than a dollar an hour. I took no money from Ed but I had free time on the Piper or Fleet. At times, when it was slow, I took Edythe or the children on flights. The business boomed and Ed bought another plane and again asked me to be his partner, for the initial $400 plus half of the cost of his new plane, $1500. I had a steady job with a good salary and a family to support. Reluctantly I turned down the offer.

Ed established Amityville Flying School and looked for other partners. Zahn became a partner and set aside 220 acres to establish Zahn Airport. The business expanded and Looney and Hoffman also became partners. Zahn Airport became the largest privately owned airport in America. Over the years, Ed bought out Zahn and Hoffman. Ed held sixty five percent of the corporation. In 1991 the airport was sold to developers for $31,500,000.