"Tex" Rankin

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Tex Rankin's Seabee N6096K
after crash on 23 February 1947
Photo: © Steinar Saevdal Collection

On 25 July 1946 president John G. (Tex) Rankin of Rankin Aviation Industries, Tulare, California, became the first costumer to accept the delivery of a Republic Seabee amphibian, when N87463 (s/n 13) was officially handed over to Tex at Republic, Farmingdale, New York.

The Seabee accident in which Tex was killed happened on 23rd February 1947.  Tex took off in the Seabee from the local airport with Lanier S. Wallan, Jack Elie  and M. J. S. Thompson, bound for a Seabee dealer's meeting at Victoria, Washington. They were slow in gaining altitude and apparently struck a 70 foot high tension line that overturned their airplane, causing it to fall on its nose.  Tex, Cy Wallan and Jack Elie were killed and Buzz Thompson suffered a fractured arm and concussions.

 

In 1947 I was living in Klamath Falls, Oregon.  A local automobile dealer had contracted with Republic Aviation to sell their new amphibian, the Republic SeaBee.  They had one there as a demonstrator which I was allowed to fly around the pea patch and also land it on Upper Klamath Lake.  It was a great speedboat and it was fun to taxi along at about sixty indicated, crank the trim tab a little nose up, then rise smoothly off the water, crank a little nose down and gently go back down on the water and keep on speeding along, make tight turns, crank up, then down again, then up.  Great control and good feel to the plane.

The only objection I had to it was that it felt somewhat sluggish in the air, but on the water it was simply great!

A day or two later Tex Rankin flew in in a new SeaBee he was taking to Seattle for an airshow and exhibition.  He picked up some passengers: the auto dealer and a couple of his friends and they took off.  On climbout the engine lost power and Tex aimed at a field not far away from the airport.  He was descending nicely but the tail struck on a power line at the edge of the field, tipped the plane on its nose and it dropped straight down to the ground, killing Tex  and a passenger.  The other passenger suffered a broken arm and lived to tell about Tex fiddling with the mixture on climbout, losing the engine and not being able to restart it.  I didn’t see the accident but I saw what was left of the wreckage and I thought of seeing Tex just a few months earlier at Vail Field in Los Angeles doing his aerobatic routine in his Great Lakes .

He did the outside square loop but couldn’t quite complete it and just let the plane hang there on the Menasco engine until it finally began to tailslide.  He flipped to nose down, gained some speed and altitude and tried again.  This time he completed the last upward leg of the square.  It was totally impressive!  I’m eighty-five years old now and still can see him vividly in my mind doing his unique brand of aerobatics.  After nearly five-thousand hours of my own and owning several different types of planes over the years, my memories of Tex are still warm and fresh.  He really was an inspiration to everyone who was fortunate enough to see him perform.

“Cheerful” Charlie Spurrier
  Highland,  Utah
2006-04-19 

cheerful_charlie@hotmail.com

 

Tex Rankin's Seabee N6096K
after crash on 23 February 1947
Photo: © Steinar Saevdal Collection

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Updated: 2010-04-01

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