Ray W. McClenaghan, 99, of Lorain, died Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at Community Health Partners, following a brief illness.
He was born in Lakewood, June 5, 1908 and lived in the Lorain County area for several years.Â As a boy he would read anything and everything about flying, especially books about World War I pilots.
He left for Gary, Indiana at the age of 16 to learn to be a pilot.Â His instructor was Jack Yonge, a World War I Captain in the British Army.Â Ray took up a Curtis Jenny Biplane for his flight test.
Orville Wright, who headed the FAI licensing in the United States, was at the field overseeing his flight test. Ray received his pilot’s license in 1926, which was signed by Orville Wright. After obtaining his United States Licenses, both private and commercial, Ray began teaching people to fly out of the old Cleveland Airport.
He bought his first biplane in 1928 for $1,000. In 1929, he flew contestants in the parachute jumps every day the air races at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport. During the 1930s, when he moved to Lorain, he entertained crowds with loops and dives in his biplane.
When World War II began, he went to Albany, Georgia to instruct British cadets to become Royal Air Force pilots. He left Georgia to apply for a job as a test pilot for B-24s being made at Henry Ford Bomber Factory in Ypsilanti, Michigan. When he walked into the Chief Pilot’s office, Charles Lindberg was sitting in a chair. They started talking, and Mr. Lindberg put in a good word for him.
Thanks to Mr. Lindberg, Ray spent three years as a test pilot in Michigan flying the B-24s. After World War II, he and his wife, the late Ruth, bought 120 acres of land on the northeast corner of Meister and Leavitt Roads in Lorain. He christened the area Lorain Skyport. They owned and operated the Lorain Skyport until 1960.
Along with teaching men and women how to fly, he also flew local corporate heads to locations across the United States, Mexico, and Canada in his Cessna 180. One of his student pilots went on to claim his own bit of fame. He was Larry Hanson, a private pilot for former President Dwight Eisenhower.Â He had only one student who became a casualty of World War II when he was shot down over England.Â Another student, Perry Young of Oberlin, became a helicopter pilot for the New York Airways. Ray’s youngest student went on to become a 7-86 pilot in the Korean Conflict.
For his dedication to the flying business and community service, Ray received awards from the United States Post Office Department during National Air Week on May 19, 1938 for flying mail out of Lorain to Cleveland.
He also earned a certificate for being a qualified member of the OX5 Aviation Pioneers for having soloed, flown, owned or actively and directly participated in the design, construction repair or operation of an OX5 powered aircraft prior to December 31, 1940. Throughout his career, Ray has taught hundreds of students to fly and has logged over 20,000 hours in his flying record.
He flew his last solo flight in 1995 at the age of 87 and then sold his Cessna 180. When asked in a newspaper article what his plane of choice would be today, he replied, “a Jenny.” He celebrated his 98th birthday by going up in a glider, piloted by a former student who flew out of the Fun Country Soaring Club in Wellington.
He is survived by two grandchildren; a sister, Ruth Cooper of Florida; and a brother, Bob McClenaghan of Ohio.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Ruth (1996); a stepdaughter, Darlene Wheeler (1975); his parents, William and Mabel (Stuckey) McClenaghan; brothers, Wilbur, Dewitt, and Roger McClenaghan; and a sister, Jessie Manville.
There will be no visitation or service.Â Following cremation by Cromco Services, Elyria, Ray will be privately interred in Elmwood Cemetery, Lorain.
Funeral arrangements were provided by the Garland-Misencik Funeral Home, 851 Park Avenue, Amherst.