Taylor, Organizer and M.C. of Scotty's Birthday Parties -
this one his 101st, July 15, 2006 at Renton Airport, er...
Clayton Scott Field!
Scotty with Bill Boeing, Jr. at his 101st. Scotty's airplane in the background (the one he crashed in the Cascades.)
Those of you who knew
Scotty, know what I say is true. He had a
"presence." He was quiet and self-assured. He had
"been there - done that." All of it. And then some.
He was a true Gentleman.
Scotty, I'm proud, to have known you.
Pilot Clayton Scott turns 100
Saturday, July 16, 2005
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Just two years after Wilbur and Orville Wright sailed over a North Carolina sand dune to launch the aviation age, Clayton Leigh Scott made his earthly debut in Potter County, Pa.
The timing was perfect.
Scott went on to make an indelible impression in the history of flight as an early carrier of U.S. mail, as William E. Boeing's personal pilot and as a test pilot for Boeing's growing airplane company.
One hundred years later, he's still at it. Sort of.
Scott has not flown solo in a couple of years. He parked his Buick for good only last December. But he still keeps an office at Renton Municipal Airport where, for nearly half a century even before his "retirement," he ran Jobmaster from a small Renton hangar. His specialty: the conversion of land planes into float planes by pinning pontoons to their undersides.
The friends and colleagues he has collected over his century gathered at Seattle's Museum of Flight yesterday to toast their old pal, and to wish him happy birthday.
It was only the beginning.
In the afternoon, Renton city officials gave Scott reason to add another notch to the strip of chevrons that decorate the joystick that has been his life for so long.
By unanimous acclamation, they tacked "Clayton L. Scott Field" to the placard that identifies the airstrip as Renton Municipal Airport.
Still "Scotty" after all these years, the old aviator arrived for the festivities at Boeing Field in a sleek, twin-engine Aerostar after taking the controls during the flight from Renton.
He emerged wearing a grey houndstooth sport coat with shirt and tie to match, and he seemed to get a kick out of the fuss stirred up among the reporters and photographers.
One TV guy, speaking as if Scott were stone deaf, wanted to know if Scott "loved" or simply "liked" flying.
Scott looked at him blankly, and then grinned at his friend and escort, Priscilla Taylor Hickey.
"Flying isn't something you can love," he said, and left the rest unspoken.
Hickey, the daughter of retired Boeing executive Richard "Dick" Taylor, simply grinned back and squeezed Scott's arm.
Since the death of his wife, Myrtle, in October 1998, Scott has continued to live in the apartment they shared at Island House on Mercer Island, driving up I-90 and down I-405 to work in Renton every day, and sometimes twice on Sunday.
He still has a couple of float-converted Cessna's for sale.
"For a while there, we were following him home every night just to make sure he got there safely," said Mike Rice, manager of Renton-based Aerodyne, where Scott shares office space.
A friend, Bill Jepson, now plays chauffeur, and is leading the effort to compile Scott's life story, one log book at a time.
"One good thing about pilots," Jepson said. "They have to write things down."
They met in 2001.
"I was admiring his airplanes one day and followed him into his hangar," said Jepson, a pilot, artist and entrepreneur.
"He's been entrusting me with his stories ever since," Jepson said. "It's been a pleasure to know him. Now it's my duty to help him with his story."
No surprise that, by the time a professional pilot has lapped a century, there would be stories to tell.
After moving with his family from Pennsylvania to Portland in 1911 and graduating from Jefferson High School, Scott got a bank job, where he met transportation pioneer Vern Gorst. Gorst had an airplane and ran a fleet of buses out of Coos Bay, Ore.
According to Scott's Mercer Island neighbor, Emery Eckert, Scott became a station attendant for Gorst's Pacific Air Transport at Pearson Field in Vancouver, Wash., and helped deliver the mail to Medford, Ore. But not by airplane. He was not yet a pilot.
So it went like this: When the weather would sock in, Scott would load the mail into the company's Model T and point it toward Highway 99. When the weather cleared, the mail plane would follow.
The pilot would look for a truck with a "T" on top, then search for a field in which to land, retrieve the mail from Scott and carry on.
Vern Gorst's pilots eventually taught Scott to fly. He never looked back.
A Scott story told and retold through the years is the one Jepson recalls about Scott's single engine conking out while he flew above the clouds and the summits of the Cascade Range.
"Somehow, he found a way through a hole in the clouds to an opening in some trees, but nevertheless piled up and was knocked out," Jepson said. "He woke up with gas dripping on the back of his neck."
Jepson said Scott was bleeding from face cuts and abrasions, but stayed with his aircraft until morning, then walked out and flagged down a startled logger who took him to North Bend, where he got a truck to haul out his airplane.
July 15, 1905: Clayton L. Scott was born in Coudersport, Pa., one of seven children, mostly girls
1920s: On a family visit to Pennsylvania, Scott sees a barnstorming flier land in his uncle's field. Later in Oregon he takes a ride with another. He's hooked for life.
1928: Giving $10 rides to a couple of thrill-seekers, Scott encounters strong gusts at the Seattle Flying Service airfield just south of what is now the West Seattle Bridge, and chooses to land instead at an uncompleted airfield being built by King County a few miles away. So as not to get in trouble, he arrives early the next day and flies out. Scott thus became the first pilot to land at what is known today as Boeing Field.
1929: Scott is the first commercial pilot to cross the Gulf of Alaska.
Early 1930s: Gassing up his Keystone-Loening Commuter at a marina in Alert Bay, B.C., Scott encounters Boeing founder William E. Boeing refueling his yacht, Taconite. They become friends, and the chance encounter develops into a job as Boeing's personal pilot.
1933-34: Becomes a United Airlines captain.
1940-1966: As chief production test pilot for Boeing, Scott took airplanes fresh off the production line. The airplanes he flew included the 247, 377, 707 and 727 airliners, as well as the military B-17, B-29, B-47, B-50, B-52, C-97 and KC-135. Scott is believed to have flown more World War II-vintage B-17 bombers than anyone in history.
In retirement: Scott built and flew a replica B&W, the float plane considered Boeing's first aircraft. The replica hangs today in the Museum of Flight.
July 15, 2005: Scott celebrates his 100th birthday at the Museum of Flight under the B&W.
Look for a photo of Scott's crossing of the Gulf of Alaska in an online history of Prince William Sound at
P-I reporter Gordy Holt can be reached at 425-646-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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