David Franklin, Cable Airport Ambassador & Ground Flight School Professor, 54

David Franklin, who had grown into an institution at Cable Airport two decades ago and remained its most visible figure, died last week from what is being described as a brain aneurysm. He was 54.
Franklin’s professional life was one devoted to aeronautics. His course was set early when, while he was yet in his junior year at Walnut High School, he obtained his pilot license at the age of 16. While working at Alpha Beta, a supermarket, he obtained his two-year degree at nearby Mt. Sac and then attended the University of Illinois at Carbondale, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management.
Carol Joyner, a designated pilot examiner and flight instructor who taught at Mt. San Antonio College, remembered him. “I knew him since the mid-1980s,” she said. “He was a student of mine in my flight instructor ground school class at Mt. SAC. He was extremely bright. Things came to him very easily. His world was aviation. He read everything he could possibly read. The course he took from me was devoted to how you can be a good flight instructor. He picked up on everything I was trying to teach him and I can tell you he proved to be a very good one. There are hundreds of pilots who learned to fly from him.”
Franklin was infatuated with all aspects of aviation, Joyner said, but hit his absolute stride in the role of a classroom instructor. He taught in the aviation department at Mt. SAC as well as with Runway 3-7, a flight run out of both Brackett Airport in LaVerne and at Cable Airport.
“He was an outstanding flight instructor and even better ground school teacher,” Joyner said. “Many of his students have gone on to careers with the airlines. He was also the unicom operator at Cable on the weekends, which is the airport adviser providing weather, wind and landing advisory for departing and incoming planes. He instructed pilots on where to land and park and then greeted them and helped tie the planes down.”
Joyner said of Franklin, “He was like an honorary son. When my husband and I would travel, he would take care of our house and look after our dogs and cats. When my husband passed away, he would take care of my pets whenever I had to travel. He took care of my airplane. We had breakfast together every Sunday when I came to the airport. If I had problems, he was always there to help.”
Rhonda Shore was the manager of Runway 3-7 from 1988 until it closed out in 2008. She oversaw the company’s operations, including Franklin’s work, both as a classroom instructor and in handling what Shore called “desk work,” i.e., dispatch assignments and paperwork.
“His work was always detailed and complete,” she said of Franklin’s paperwork. “In some cases you would come back later – months or even years later – and you did not have to call him because what he did was so detailed and explicit there were no questions.”
Shore remembered Franklin “as the kindest soul I have ever known. He could not help people enough. He did whatever he could to afford people the benefit of his knowledge. I don’t think I ever heard him say anything negative about anybody. I worked with him for 20 years. Twice, after he was ground instructor, his class was given questionnaires asking to rate him as an instructor. These were kept confidential and Dave never saw them. There was one, a single student, who said something unfavorable about him. The rest were laudatory, but Dave never saw any of those.”
When the Runway 3-7 operation was consolidated into a single operation at Cable Airport in 2003, she said Franklin insisted that she accompany him on the short hop to Upland, the symbolic last flight out of Runway 3-7 at Brackett. And Shore cited a familiar Franklin trait. “He would take care of my cats when I went away for a week or two,” she said.
Patsy, Dave”s mother, said her son had two passions in life. The first was playing the drums, which he did as a member of the school band from fourth grade until his senior year at Walnut High, from which he graduated in 1980. She shared a wistful memory of her ten-year-old carrying his drum to school, with the instrument strapped around his neck, the bottom of the percussion device hovering a few inches above the ground with every step.
His second passion was flying, which she said, might have arisen from her own thwarted desire to take to the skies on a regular basis. “I wanted to be a stewardess, but I got married and in those days a stewardess couldn’t be married,” she said, hinting that just maybe she had lived vicariously through her son.
“Dave was born to be a pilot,” she said. “He taught ground school at Mt. SAC for fifteen years. He loved teaching people to fly. He participated in the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Flying Association as the chief judge for their yearly competition.”
Her first object and up-close illustration of how dedicated and skilled her son was came on a flight she and her husband made to Oklahoma with Franklin at the controls of a small plane in 1981, during the air traffic controllers’ strike. The sky was blanketed with cloud cover as Dave flew the plane on a straight line toward Albuquerque but was then obliged, for technical reasons in some fashion involved with the air controllers’ strike, to switch his flight orientation to an alternate direction finding beacon emanating from El Paso. In his head, Franklin did the necessary fuel capacity calculations that allowed him to utilize a somewhat longer and roundabout route to their destination.
Patsy said Franklin was offered a position as Senator Dianne Feinstein’s pilot but had to decline because of his commitment to being a ground instructor.
More recently, Patsy said, she had accompanied Franklin on a blimp flight during which Dave, after a lifetime of piloting and functioning within the context of heavier-than-air aircraft, was allowed by the pilot to take the helm of the dirigible. “Dave explained he was a certified pilot and they let him fly it after instructing him that he was not to touch any of the ropes connected to the helium bladders or the ballast,” she said.
Mike Pattison, who was a former student and colleague who is now an airline pilot, said, “ I first met Dave flying out of Cable Air when I was nine years old and he was the dispatcher at Cable Air. When I got my private and instrument ratings at Cable Air Flight School he was my ground school instructor. I became a flight instructor and worked beside him for twelve years. He was a mentor, a friend, someone you could count on full of knowledge. He was kind, with a strong work ethic. He was a consummate professional and a motivator.”
Having flown with Franklin around a dozen times and having been guided through takeoffs and landings hundreds of times by him, Pattison said, “He was the embodiment of Cable Airport. He was Cable Airport. He represented Cable Airport on so many different levels.”
Franklin’s graveside funeral is to take place at 1 p.m. on Monday June 13 at Rose Hills Cemetery.

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