Lee Cameron, RIP

I can't verify that even one word of what follows is true. But it's aviation history, to be sure. Lee Cameron was one of the principals at Aerospace Products up in LA, the company that did the mods on our C-45H. He flew at Reno (probably), ditched a DC-4 (possibly) and lived to tell about it, and lots more recounted below. His sidekick got caught hauling wacky weed up from Mexico in our bird, so we had a Narc friend bring his dog since we going to be under the FAA's watchful eye, but it was clean. Looks like there were some other 'colorful characters' involved. No clue where what follows came from, looks like a forum on some Beechcraft site.

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I bought Lee's AT-11 and his parts inventory.  Taigh is going to go over the plane with the proverbial "fine tooth comb".  Looking forward to finally get it home and play around with it.  We have been looking for almost 3 years for the appropriate family transportation.  I hope my patience is rewarded with a reasonable report out of Taigh's shop.

I had considered the gun turret but am afraid that my twin boys would cause too much destuction!!

Charlie



congratulations, charlie.., you have bought a very unique airplane. A short story-novel could be written about this beast. FIRST OF ALL LET ME GIVE YOU A PARTIAL LIST ON SOME OF THE PEOPLE-CHARACTERS-LEGENDS who have worked on this at11. Lee Cameron, the creator of the super AT11, retired in 1946 from united airlines to make more money scrapping airliners. He loved his job flying boeing 247's DC3's DC4's internationally known colorful character. In 1979 when lee was 60 yrs young, he ditched a dc4 off the coast of florida .A book was written,an interesting tale about 3 characters, a jew, a scotsman and a pollock that survived in a life raft on a gallon of water, a bag of apples, fighting off sharks, drifting for 9 days, dehydrated and hallucinating, eventually being rescued and dumped in a mexican port, thrown in jail, and conning theirselves out on a promise of a bribe! Phil and Bud brauchler who own wauchula aircraft worked on your AT11 for 14 months to get it ferriable to california, Marine SGT. "BILL ZINK".., sounded like a FOGG HORN" flew a baron all over florida delivering blood during the evening, and worked on the AT11 by day. One of many pilot-mechanics that worked on the plane. bill now travels all over the world doing prebuys on cessna citations. "NEAL" the cfi-mechanic once had a paperwork problem returning in a friends apache from the bahamas and was thrown in jail while the ripples were ironed out! Capt. howard harding, once was an illigitimate dealer in stored obsolete airline avionics, howard currently is babysitting my plane in roosevelt utah, one hell of a talented pilot-mechanic with a scrotum the size of an asian water buffalo! He was chief pilot-mechanic for the jelly-bean airforce, a fleet of 18's, carrying tourists and freight around the hawaiian islands. howards cell in utah 435 724 0539. Cigarette smoking Air Force george, he and his dad used to go fishing with actor james arness, flying up in the sierra nevadas. Lee's most senior employee was "TOMMY", owned his own DC3 out of van nuys flying the nips to the ditch, grand canyon tours. Tommy told me his 135 insurance went from 8K to 32K in one yr so he dropped out becomimg an employee for lee. Sadly tommy passed away 5 yrs ago, worked for Lee until the day he died. He had alot of good stories being an airline capt in the 50's and 60's. Long after lee had retired from united, tommy invited lee and some friends on a chartered flight to europe in a DC6. That was the start of a long friendship. Tommy had a parkinsons problem but always had a glint in his eye and a story, kind of reminded me of my grandfather! "BIG BOBBY" was 400 to 500 pounds of aviation enthusiast, he had an eating disorder but knew alot about building old radials. I saw him consume a gallon of juice and a dozen donuts in 20 minutes. An hour later told he me he hadn't eaten anything, I referred him to a local all U can eat restaurant. Some aircraft mechanics, like pilots and painters have a bottle problem, "JAY" was an ex liquor distributor in nevada. He lived in his motorhome inviting prospective actresses to the mobile casting couch. He was Lee's Grunt willing to do anything, a real nice guy. Movie mechanics Karl Florine and Dennis Twohey, owners of beech18.com I flew them to lantana florida to help resurrect their tri-gear 18 in 2001 right after general aviation was opened after sept11th. I never file flight plans but karl did the paperwork on that trip. Another very talented pilot mechanic, can't remember his name at the moment, owned a fleet of 18's flying out of hawthorne next to lax. One of his pilots ran an 18 out of gas landing next to whisky pete's. Gas was delivered and the plane flew off without a report written on the incident. His 135 certificate was yanked. he went to work in laughlin nevada, he now is a capt. on the fly by wire stuff for the airlines. Yours truly spent 27 yrs with HONDA,I first met Lee in 89, trading my 182 for an airliner, an 18. ten yrs later, right after I broke my back in 3 places, Lee called me asking me to deliver a wing and 2 985's to florida for your AT11. I stayed with Lee for 3 yrs. I never made much money in the aviation business, but I sure met some interesting people, and flew my plane 3 times more than when I was making a decent living. Never had so much fun in my life. There are more of the motley crew, but these ones stand out. dave wilson fly-by-nite airlines   

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 12:21:28 am on 1/3/2006 Modified: Never   

correction, Lee was 69 when he ditched the 4. another one of Lee's AT11 guys was a true artist and one heck of a sheet metal man, "Leonard" was an ex employee of lockheed in burbank for many yrs and was a major supplier of vitamins assisting fellow employees to stay awake for double shifts! He did the sheet metal work on the airstair door, basically building it from scratch. Leonard introduced me to his fellow highschool friend,a tough looking latino motorcycle vato..., "gang banger" also an ex con, who was a star on the movie "BUBBLE BOY" being filmed at whiteman airport. Another movie "Jag" being filmed at whiteman attracted a celeb who noticed the AT11 in the hanger.Charlies angel Jaquelin Smith used the hanger to have her make up technician primp and fuss between shoots! Karl of beech18.com took some pictures of jaquelin being embraced.., by Dennis Twohey, roadracer bob, and myself in front of the AT11.  

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 11:22:21 pm on 1/3/2006 Modified: Never   

Lee's dad was an automobile manufacturer, one of many in those days. The CAMERON was mostly made of aluminum ! There is a cameron on display at an auto museum in the san fernando valley. Do you remember seeing classical historic footage of charles lindberg preparing to take off in the spirit of St. Louis on the flight to paris france. Lee Cameron was in that send off crowd helping push the plane thru the mud! believe it or not..., sky king

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 8:14:27 pm on 1/7/2006 Modified: Never   

After another briefing with Lee, the correct description of the ditching incident..., nine days of floating in the gulf of mexico with a protestant, a catholic, and a jew. Paul Gunderson was one of Lee's more talented ex 135 owner-pilots that operated a fleet of 18's out of Hawthorne calif. Paul lives in bullhead city and flies a smoker out of vegas to nashville for an offshoot of delta airlines. Lee once told me of an incident with a famous aviatrix. When Lee was 16 and this lady pilot was 28, she landed at cleveland ohio, she needed a lift into town so lee gave her a ride in his car. She told him she didn't have any money so he told her she could give him a KISS! Amelia erhart obliged!  Another interesting story was Lee's entry into the 1949 BENDIX AIR RACES. Lee competed without any sponsor flying on his own nickel in his douglas invader, a huge gas guzzling Double engined pratt and whitney R2800's. He figured he could place well as his competitors in heavily sponsored p51's may have mechanical breakdowns!. The other planes would have to make fuel stops and he could do it non stop. He was wrong, most of the planes finished, including Lee. At 95 Lee said he is going to the next auction in phoenix arizona with the STARMAN Brothers to see if he can sniff out a good deal on some aviation goodies, I may go along to accompany him. Lee is completeing his book which should be printed soon, to order yours or the book about the ditching call Lee or larry at 1 800 257 9863 Sky King   

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 11:20:02 pm on 1/29/2007 Modified: Never   

MR. TWIN BEECH...,  Leland H. Cameron,  decided to fly west this past saturday afternoon. Lee suffered a major stroke after having a brief bout with pneumonea. At 96 yrs young, Lee was the oldest surviving United Airlines pilot, retiring as captain on DC4s in 1947! He was still driving his ford taurus and attending the monthly retired united airline pilots meetings. Lee's latest claim to fame was that he was the only man alive who got kissed by Amelia aerhart. Lee told me when she landed in cincinatti she asked if there was a bus or a taxi into town, he offered her a lift into town. She gave him gave him a kiss? Several years ago Lee told me he had more than one stewardess pregnant at the same time.  Looking on the internet doing a search under leland cameron I found an interesting document. Dated 1947, Lee was in a court battle with the federal government. It appears that after the bendix air race in his B26, from Poncho Barnes ranch in Mojave california to cincinatti, against P51 mustangs, corsairs, spitfires, P40's, Lee performed a loop and ensuing dive narrowly missing the control tower. His licence had been suspended for 30 days, except for purposes of testing military aircraft. Lee was appealing the courts decision. Lee competed in his own B26 airplane with no sponsors, he told me he could do it non stop without refueling and thought he had a chance at winning as the others had to stop for fuel and were not as reliable! Lee's caregiver is typing up his newest autobiography soon to be released. Lee probably sold more beech 18's privately other any other privateer. Lee was a very colorful character. In 1979, at 68 yrs of age, Lee spent 9 days floating around the gulf of mexico in a life raft  after ditching a DC4 35 miles west off the coast of tampa. He also spent 18 months in Lompoc prison on a conspiracy charge. Lee proudly displayed an autographed portrait of him standing next to president Ronald Reagan. A substantial contribution to the republican party lead to his conviction being exponged? I had the pleasure of working for Lee from 1999 to 2001. He sent me all over the country in his ford truck picking up parts and many times sending me in my own beech 18 paying for hotels, meals, fuel and a small paycheck. I did more flying working for Lee than when I was making a decent living as a honda mechanic. I worked with a motley crew of characters restoring about 4 beeches,including the famous AT11 now owned by Dr. C Bogie. I have informed Wayman Dunlap, editor of the Pacific flyer newspaper of Lee's passing. Larry Stahl, lee's business partner and CLAY LACY of lacy aviation are being consulted for a story of lees life.  Lee has been cremated and a memorial service is being set up for saturday the 10th at united methodist church on tujunga blvd N hollywood. LEE, thanks for the memories, dave wilson - sky king, fly-by-nite airlines.  

  Re: AT-11 (18West)
Posted: 2:02:21 pm on 2/1/2007 Modified: Never   

Hard to believe. David AND Lee gone within 24 hrs of each. 
So many of the "old guard" gone now.
I worked for Lee back in 1962-63. My main job was stripping fabric off of surfaces so Charlie could metal skin them.
There was so much going on there then. Maybe 10 guys working full time on all the mods Lee had developed.
Anyway, thats where my love affair for the 18 began.
Lee was one of a kind and bigger then life. Talk about a salesman!
The last time I saw him was shortly before he moved away from Satsuma Street. Id stopped by to drop off a part or something and ****ed if LEE didnt start trying to sell me stuff.
I finally bought an old beat up Super Cabin seat so he'd let me outta there!  :-)   That was Lee, all the way.
Adios amigo.  Tom Leatherwood

  Re: AT-11 (Baron319)
Posted: 12:12:36 am on 2/3/2007 Modified: Never   

I thought it was a Rabbi, A Muslim Priest and a Cowboy? LOL 
With Lee gone I doubt the REAL story about the ditching will ever be known. You have a great heart Dave but your too gullible. Maybe the real story doesnt need to be known, or is too boring. The other variations are certainly more colorful and put Lee in a better light. The latest one told by Lee to Matt Jackson has Lee flying a DC6 to South America single handedly on a DEA sting operation to bust a bunch of Columbian drug lords. After, LEE think, why go home empty handed so he fills the airplane up with pot and off he goes. The DEA gets wind of it and shadows him with a C-130. Lee ditches the 6 and gets in a raft and the DEA leaves him there. Etc etc etc. Now THATS a good story! 
Truth is it was probably a Bonanza or a 206. lol                        

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 3:50:32 pm on 2/6/2007 Modified: Never   

Tom, I can't quite picture Lee as a cowboy? Just spoke to Larrt Stahl, lees business partner for the past 40 yrs, probably credited with keeping Lee out of prison for so long! The funeral is planned for this sunday 230 pm at the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, 4832 Tujunga blvd in North Hollywood between magnolia and Camarillo. The criminal attorney..., brigadere general SYKES of the van nuys condor squadron, a gaggle of at6's, is putting together a FLY BY for Lee. Larry said they're still looking for an 18 to join the formation. 

  Re: AT-11 (Baron319)
Posted: 4:30:36 pm on 2/6/2007 Modified: Never   

Dave,
That was just a bad joke. Lee not a cowboy?  Depends in what context you view it. They say that cowboys made their own rules right?  Tell me he wasn't a cowboy?
I wont be able to make the memorial as it turns out. Take a recorder and record as many Lee stories as you can. It would make a hell of a book!
Tom

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 7:06:59 pm on 2/6/2007 Modified: Never   

Tom, yes I guess Lee was a real cowboy, the kind of guy that would clean out his ears with a #2 flatblade screw driver. My wife grew to hate Lee, I was having the time of my life, working for Lee and aerospace products, flying and working on 18's for a few years, you just had to count your fingers after a handshake! As we both worked for the same boss, Jack Robertson Honda, I must admit you have done very well for yourself. Owning the most beautiful 18 that was previously part of the astronaut frank bormans aviation collection. Some day you will probably regret selling her.  I remember well the biggest west coast 18 reunion at paso robles hosted by you and your lovely wife tina, your truly classic hanger and the auger inn. Meeting your good friend and fellow aviator, Morgan Woodward, I looked up woodward.com and he has sure done alot of tv, Bonanza, wyatt urp, dallas, cool hand luke, now theres a real cowboy! He still has a hanger at WHP! Is he still flying his WACO, I think he is 81 now. Larry told me that Lee's latest caregiver is typing up Lee's latest autobiography. I still owe you for that emergency hatch that you gave me years ago. No JUNK in Tom Leatherwoods 18 inventory. I haven't afforded my 18 for the past 2 years, howard harding has it up in roosevelt airport utah, check out my comment on 74V at www.airnav.com  dave wilson

  Re: AT-11 (Baron319)
Posted: 12:56:57 am on 2/8/2007 Modified: Never   

Hi Dave,
Yeah, we had some fun at those fly-ins. Hom many times has there been 4 AT-11's flying formation at YOUR hangar party! We had 13 Beechs at that first one.
Sadly, Morgans thru flying himself. The Waco has been sold. He flies around with me given the chance.
Miss my Beech? Honestly I don't. There's a time for eveything and it was time to change. Im past that Warbird thing anyway. All the issues, spars, props, etc etc etc made the decision. My T-bone has ZERO issues PLUS a great autopilot! Its faster and cheaper by far.
Nice to hear from you.
Did you know I managed Jack Robertsons parts department at the motorcycle store on Tujunga? I also helped them setup the Burbank stores parts dept. This was around 1969-71 ? Jack was a real gentleman and treated me great. The first Honda Cars were coming in and the 750 4 cylinder sounded the death of their Triumph involvement.
Tom Leatherwood

  Re: AT-11 (davewilson)
Posted: 10:22:47 am on 2/14/2007 Modified: Never