History of Air Explorer Squadron 3
September 8, 2004
by Ralph Truglio, Jim
Upton, Josh Lober
December 17, 1951 by Max Mahan and Homer
Hess, Fred Maw was soon after recruited as the Squadron’s first Flight Instructor. With the objective of exposing
young men to aviation, the concept for the Squadron came from members of the North Hollywood Optimist Club, which included at
that time Mahan and Hess. Sometime later, Fred Maw also became a member of the North Hollywood Optimists.
The first flight training was conducted for $4.00 per hour in a borrowed Piper J-3 Cub (N98795) and Fred Maw’s Ercoupe (N3107H).
Squadron members could choose between the Ercoupe and the Cub for training, and were typically given a familiarization ride in
each aircraft before deciding. Cub N98795 was later destroyed in a ground accident with no injuries to the occupants.
Following the Cub incident, a
borrowed 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ (N85564) was used to support squadron flight training.
A 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ (N1759E) had been abandoned at Whiteman airport and was to be auctioned off for the back tie-down fees
of $150. Squadron 3 purchased the Aeronca Champ and ferried it over to San Fernando Airport where Squadron Advisor Ray ‘Shorty’ Gillingham had
an aircraft maintenance hangar. The Aeronca Champ was completely refurbished by Squadron 3 Explorers working under
Shorty’s supervision. Upon completion, it served as the Squadron’s primary training aircraft until
1958, at which time it was again refurbished
in preparation for its sale.
In 1959, Squadron 3 bought an Ercoupe 415C
(N41889, all metal) and shortly thereafter, a second
Ercoupe 415C (N2378H, Seconite covered) was also purchased.
A Fairchild PT-23 was donated to the Squadron in 1960 by William Perkinson, a friend of the
Cagan Family. It was parked next to Champ N1759E at Whiteman for a short time, while being flight evaluated by the instructors in the Squadron. It was determined to
be a poor instruction aircraft, both because of its large size and a high fuel and maintenance cost. It was sold for $600 and the
money was put to use in the Squadron treasury.
The two Ercoupes were used in service of the Squadron for a
number of years, but were eventually determined to be unsuitable as training aircraft.
In 1961, both Ercoupes were sold and the proceeds (along with the $600 from the
PT-23) were used to purchase a 1959 Cessna 150 (N5668E), which was used in the service of Squadron 3 until 1974. At that time, a 1963 Cessna 172 (N1942S) was purchased and used until
19??, when a 1974 Cessna 172 (N13101) was purchased. N13101 is the current Squadron
In 1955, Ralph Truglio, a former Air Force Pilot and Math Teacher at San Fernando High School was recruited by S.F. High’s
Principal to be the advisor of a school Aviation Club named ‘The Afterburners’. The ‘Afterburners’ involvement in aviation
was limited to non-flight activities. However, it turned out that most members of the ‘Afterburners’ were also
members of Squadron 3. Fred Maw took Ralph for a flight in the Squadron airplane, after which Ralph agreed to reinstate his
Pilot’s License and begin Instructing with Squadron 3. In 2004, after 49 years of service to Squadron 3, Ralph remains
the Squadron’s Chief Flight Instructor. From the time of his recruitment into the Squadron in 1955 until present day, Ralph Truglio
has donated close to 6,000 flight training hours and countless ground school hours
teaching Southern California’s youth to fly.
Throughout the years, there have been numerous Flight Instructors that have donated time to the Squadron. Many of these have
been Airline Pilots and former Squadron members. In addition to Ralph Truglio and Fred Maw, others that have participated as
Squadron 3 Flight Instructors include; Ray 'Shorty' Gillingham, Henry Herring, Bill Catlin, Jerry Detwiler,
Jack Hollebeke, Bill Spreuer, Gary Stearns, Howard Chase,
Steve Lober, Ted Moyer, Tom Biley, Bryon Zambello and many others.
to be continued...
this page last updated August 20, 2019