The 172 Sweepstakes bird has a local tale to tell
We thought we’d have to search high and low for our next sweepstakes airplane. Luckily, the perfect airframe was practically in our own back yard.
Clearview Airport (2W2) is a small public-use airport in Westminster, Maryland. It’s legendary among local pilots because of its 1,840-foot runway with trees and displaced thresholds at both ends. The owner of the pilot supply shop at Clearview will sell you a coffee mug that says “I landed at Clearview Airport”—but only if you actually flew in.
AOPA member Thomas Johnson has owned a home just off the approach end of Runway 32 since 1990. He happened to be on a flight lesson with a student one afternoon, and while performing a runup in his 1978 Cessna 172, he noticed a “For Sale” sign on a house a few hundred yards away. The building’s proximity to Clearview made it an ideal home for someone like Johnson, who as a young boy collected airline wing pins on transatlantic flights with his family.
That same Cessna 172 has served Johnson well in the 30 years he’s owned it, but now he’s ready to make room in his garage/hangar (which also houses a Cessna 182, a Piper J–3 Cub, and a Cessna 195 project). He donated N739HW to AOPA so that it can become your 2016/2017 sweepstakes airplane—and, like you, he’s looking forward to watching the transformation that it will undergo at Yingling Aviation in Wichita (see “Reborn in the U.S.A.,” February 2016 AOPA Pilot).
Johnson learned to fly in Cessna 150s and 152s at Haysfield Airport, a grass strip in Clarksville, Maryland. He purchased N739HW from Alfred Bassler, the owner of the airport, who also operated a flight school there. Johnson put the airplane on leaseback at Haysfield and based it there until after September 11, 2001. The terrorist attacks prompted the creation of an Air Defense Identification Zone, and eventually the Baltimore-Washington Special Flight Rules Area, which swallowed up a number of small private airports like Haysfield and prompted pilots to take their airplanes elsewhere. Once a vibrant general aviation community, the property eventually was sold to housing developers, and the airport closed in 2012.
While N739HW has been a trainer, Johnson also used it for recreational flying. “I’ve done a lot of personal flying in it,” he said. “I’ve had this airplane down to the Bahamas, down to Key West, out to Oshkosh many times. I’ve done a lot of flying in it.
“It’s been a very good airplane,” Johnson said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but it’s time to finish other projects.” When asked what those are, he smiled and said, “The list would get too long.”