Volume 44 | Number 1 | Spring 2014

Back in the Pilot's Seat

Spring 2014 Issue | By Stuart Summers, '10

James (Jim) Wallace drove himself from Lava Hot Springs to the Pocatello Airport in April 2013 to see a distant memory from his past come alive once again.

The retired crop duster, who also served as a fighter pilot in World War II, came to the airport to fly his 1948 Cessna C-170 airplane, rebuilt by Idaho State University College of Technology students over the last decade.

Students in the aircraft maintenance technology program carefully restored the airplane after it arrived at ISU in pieces. For more than 10 years, students worked on rebuilding every detail of the airplane from its landing gear to its wings. Reunited with his Cessna, Wallace immediately returned to flying.

"They've done such a great job on this. I've got to fly it," Wallace said. "When you are up there, that's where you are free."

The aircraft maintenance program used the airplane as an instructive opportunity to conduct live work maintenance. During the project, students learned how to troubleshoot existing problems, work under deadlines and meet client expectations.

Wallace originally used the aircraft on his ranch near Lava Hot Springs, but had not flown it for almost 20 years. Mike Evans, an ISU aircraft maintenance technology instructor and pilot, joined him in the sky at the controls. Together the two soared above Portneuf Valley, and Wallace was able to once again fly the aircraft.

After his flight, Wallace beamed with gratitude as others were offered a ride in the tiny plane.

Wallace was a pilot for the Marines and served in the South Pacific Theater. His love for flying goes back to 1942 when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy's Aviator Training Program in Los Angeles. He flew a variety of missions that included close air support during beach landings, air-to-air combat and elimination of fortified artillery emplacements.

He is also the recipient of multiple Distinguished Flying Crosses.

Wallace served in World War II from 1942 to 1946 and piloted a Vought F4U Corsair carrying rockets and ammunition. After the war, he lived in California and worked in the crop dusting business.

Nearly 30 years later, he moved to Idaho and has resided here since. The restored Cessna was out of service for 25 years and arrived to the ISU program in various trailers and boxes, but is back in commission thanks to the hard work and dedication of 10 years of Bengals.