Seven Decades Above the Clouds

Last month, Pittsburgh International Airport celebrated the re-launch of seasonal nonstop service to Paris. While out on the ramp, our photographer captured an image of a different plane that lifted my spirits.

As soon as I saw the throwback Allegheny Airlines logo on the American a319 aircraft taxiing into PIT, many memories came rushing in.

When your name is Youree, aviation is a way of life. It’s rooted deep within each member of my family.

My family’s aviation pedigree started with my grandfather, Captain Ty Youree, who joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1942. As a fighter pilot, he flew Grumman F6F Hellcats with squadron VF-85 on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Shangri-La. Shortly after, he volunteered to become a night fighter pilot, part of an elite, highly trained group of flyers considered to be the best of the best.

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After the war, he moved to Louisville and became a charter/air ambulance pilot and flight instructor for Kentucky Air Transport at Bowman Field. He was then hired by Turner Airlines, an airline pioneered by Roscoe Turner, the famous barnstormer and Hollywood pilot.

As many #AvGeeks in Pittsburgh know, Turner Airlines became Lake Central Airlines in 1950; Ty flew the Douglas DC-3 and Convair 340 as chief pilot and check airman at the Columbus, Ohio base.

When Lake Central Airlines merged with Allegheny Airlines, he began flying the Boeing 727, based at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. In 1979, Allegheny Airlines changed its name to USAir, and Ty kept flying the 727 at PIT until his retirement in 1982.

My father followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. Captain Lance Youree began as a flight instructor at Bowman Field in Kentucky while attending the University of Louisville. He got his airline start with Air Kentucky, flying the Beechcraft 99 aircraft. He was hired by USAir in 1980 as a First Officer on the Douglas DC-9 at PIT, later flying as captain on the Boeing 737, 757, 767, and Airbus A320 at PIT, and later at Philadelphia International Airport after USAir transferred its hub operations and changed its name to US Airways.

When US Airways merged with American Airlines, my father transitioned to the Airbus A330 and currently flies internationally. He is slated to retire in 2020.

Growing up among pilots was a little different. When I was a kid, most of my friends had their father home every night. My Dad could have been in Madrid one night, in Memphis the next. I never saw this as anything other than normal. Some of my fondest memories are of my brothers and me climbing aboard our family-owned Stearman and pretending to fly. Even though my grandfather is no longer with us, the tradition continues today with my own children (his great-grandchildren) sitting in his pilot’s seat – including my 7-year-old son, who is named Ty in his honor.

I guess I can’t get enough of aviation: I now work in the Marketing and Communications department at PIT. And I’m not the only apple that didn’t fall far from the tree. My brother, First Officer Lance Youree II, began his aviation career when our dad began teaching him to fly in our Piper J-3 Cub and Stearman at Beaver County Airport. He was hired by National Jets in 2014, based at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, flying the Learjet 45 in the charter/air ambulance capacity, both domestically and internationally. He now flies for Republic Airline as a First Officer on the Embraer 170 and 175, based in PIT.

Whew! All of that from one aircraft photo!

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who geeks out on retro airplane paint jobs.

American Airlines is currently paying tribute to Allegheny. Other airlines, such as PSA, America West, TWA and Piedmont are also joining the heritage club of the American fleet. These classically painted planes began making appearances at PIT and other airports across the country in 2015.

When you’re at PIT, look for the logos. They tell a story that is personal to me, but also a fascinating reminder of the history of America’s proud history of aviation.

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