Bruce Clements- Twenty-first Century Barnstormer
It's only fitting that Barnstormer Books chose a biplane pilot as subject for our first biography of the week. With classic aviator's mustache and broad smile, Bruce Clements fills the role admirably. Most of all, there's a love for this type of flying which is evident in the way he methodically wipes oil from his yellow Stearman at flight's end or in the way he lingers after engine shutdown, not putting the plane in hangar, tasting the sweet romance of flight for as long as possible.
Hey, it wasn't always rumbling radial engines and trade wind massages. Bruce first came to Hawaii in 1979, after seven years in Alaska. He flew commuters and air tours to survive, but when slow times hit the island economy Bruce left for a stint at flying freight in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, he landed a job with Hawaiian Air in 1985 and at present moves the throttles of a DC-10 from the left seat when not behind the stick of his Stearman.
Bruce bought the beautiful yellow biplane in 1992, then flew it from Tampa to California where it was disassembled and shipped to Hawaii. What could be finer than owning a Stearman in Hawaii? Owning two Steamans, of course. Bruce's other plane sports a different paint job and takes to the sky when ole yeller is in for maintenance.
His biplane rides business has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary. Passengers come to Dillingham Airfield to begin their adventures. Bruce offers several different flights, but his most notorious sortie retraces one of the attack routes flown by Japanese attack planes to Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Best memories? Certainly many are of the delighted passengers who have shared a Stearman flight with him. Some open-cockpit flyers have been so enthralled they returned two or three times in the same vacation.
It's a rough job, but someone has to do it.