My aviation and travel bug recently led me to a unique celebration at Clark Regional Airport, just outside of Louisville, Kentucky. The travel getting there was rather arduous due to weather and interstate construction. Boo! My original plan was to take my little plane on a short 40 minute flight from my home base airport to KJVY (that’s aviation terminology for Clark Regional Airport). The morning weather had a low ceiling and I could either wait and hope it would burn off or start driving. Soooooo, with disappointment, my drive from Cincinnati to Louisville began. This is normally a less than 2 hour drive. It wasn’t long before traffic came to a halt due to construction. As I’m sitting there, bumper-to-bumper, the sky is getting bluer and bluer. I’m kicking myself for being impatient at the airport. I’m rolling my eyes to myself, “I should’ve flown!” The drive took nearly 3 hours. Ugh.
Before the planned event at Clark Airport in Indiana, I decided to find a hotel for the night, get out and then, explore! There were a couple of quaint towns nearby: Jeffersonville and Sellersburg, Indiana. Strolling along these streets offered scenic views of neighborhoods, shops, and restaurants. If you’re ever in the Louisville area, check out these towns.
Time also allowed me to see parts of Louisville that are less known. I’ve been to The Louisville Slugger museum before and have fond memories of a Taylor Swift concert at the KFC Yum! Center (yes, that’s the name). Louisville also has some interesting neighborhoods near downtown, where you can find a good beer and awesome Mexican food. Seeing these towns and neighborhoods was fun but it wasn’t the highlight of this flyGIRLs road trip.
“Hap” is a veteran who has been instrumental in the growth and success of the Clark Regional Airport. His involvement in the airport spans more than 30 years. His family is very involved in aviation and the well-maintained airport as well. His family’s love for “Hap,” a father, grandfather and husband was made obvious by a surprise celebration in his honor, for his 94th birthday.
William “Hap” Happel is a Kentucky native who had an interest in aviation from a young age. During the war, he earned his pilot certifications through serving in the US Navy. His war time aviation experience consisted of flying dive-bombers in the Pacific theater. One of these being, the Helldiver.
Upon my arrival for his birthday celebration, the family greeted me warmly and put me to work setting up an airplane hangar with decorated tables, memorabilia of “Hap’s” aviation life and beer for the guests. Lots of beer. As guests of various ages arrived before the arrival of the guest-of-honor, they were giddy with excitement. The BIG surprise was a fly-by and flight made in the only remaining airworthy Helldiver in the world. “Hap” would arrive moments later in a red vintage convertible and stand in astonishment with the surprise fly-by of this Helldiver.
Powerful Moments And Memories
The entire plan came off smoothly. He was very emotional at the sight of this airplane. I wondered what his thoughts were during those moments. I love the memories I’ve created in my little plane but I can’t imagine they compare to his military recollection. During the war, so many young men went off to fly these giant, powerful machines while dodging fire and barely escaping with their lives. My flying experiences involve some element of bravery, but nothing like that! Thank God for these heroes.
He may be a bit of a slow-mover at age 94, but his enthusiasm is still evident. He made his way to the airplane after it had taxied to a stop. He had no qualms about climbing onto the wing of that plane (with a little help) for a peak in the familiar cockpit. His desire to fly in it again was obvious through the smile on his face and gleam in his eyes. A few moments later, he was off and in the air again.
These are the events that bring tears to my eyes and provide heartwarming memories for all of those involved. This is something I will never forget. HE is someone I will never forget. We barely spoke with each other for more than 10 minutes but he made an impact on me. His love and life in aviation has inspired his children and grandchildren to keep the airport running successfully and their flight business is thriving. This is how we all keep general aviation alive. We take pride in the history of past pilots and celebrate with them. We have to pass it down and share the stories of people like “Hap.”