Gehman brings sentimental plane home
By JOSH FRYE
News Staff Writer
Last Thursday, December 30, Atmore resident David Gehman and son, Stephen Gehman, treated Atmore to an uncommon sight when they towed a 1974 Cessna 172-M plane through downtown Atmore. The plane, which was piloted by David and towed by his son Stephen, made its trek down Main Street and onto Highway 31, then to David’s home behind Atmore Municipal Airport, the plane’s original home. David’s dad, Marty Gehman, drove an SUV behind the plane, bringing up the rear of the unusual procession.
What makes the plane so special for David is that this is the exact plane that helped him start his pilot career when he was just 16 years old.
In 1976, David made his first solo flight from behind the controls of the Cessna with Robert Earl Godwin instructing him. In 1977 at the age of 17, David earned his pilot’s license.
“This plane is very special and sentimental,” David said. “What makes this plane even more special is the man and family who owned it.”
David grew up around the Atmore airfield and after expressing an extreme love and interest for aviation, Robert Earl Godwin offered David a job at the airfield with Atmore Flying Services, working the ramp, refueling, checking oil, washing planes, cutting grass and performing everyday airfield maintenance.
“The Godwin family who owned the airfield was a blessing,” David said. “Robert took time with me and taught me. Because of him, I was able to gain my pilot’s license. He opened the door to my future. The lessons he and his family taught me have become a driving force for much of my life.”
As David grew up, so did his professional aviation career. David went on to become a flight instructor, logged thousands of flight hours as an AT&T air patrol pilot, served a lengthy term on the Poarch Creek Indians Tribal Council and is currently working as a corporate aviation pilot. Through David’s career, his major influences have always been linked back to the Godwin family and the small Cessna plane that started it all.
Last Thursday, the links in the long chain of David’s aviation experience met together when he was reunited with the plane that started it all. David was able to acquire the Cessna aircraft from the Godwin family. For over 10 years, the small Cessna sat outside Mike Godwin’s agriculture aviation hangar in Davisville. David explained that with the help of the Godwin family, his son and many more individuals, the plane’s wings were removed for the first time since it was built in 1974. Since hauling the plane on a flatbed was out of the question, David’s son, Stephen connected the plane to the back of his truck. Atmore Police Department Chief Chuck Brooks and Atmore Police Department officers provided traffic assistance and for the first time in many years, David hopped into the cockpit of the Cessna to pilot the aircraft back close to its original home at Atmore Municipal Airport in an unusual way.
As David piloted the aircraft while being pulled by his son, traffic pulled out the way and people gathered at the side of the street to watch the unusual sight of an airplane being pulled behind a truck.
“It was an unusual feeling,” David said. “It is not every day that you see an airplane being towed through downtown. It was a fitting procession that in a way, honored a great man and the aviation community of Atmore.”
David said the future for the aircraft is a lengthy one. The aircraft will undergo a complete maintenance from the ground up and that the motor will have to be rebuilt with the help of his son, who is an aviation mechanic. David also added that when the aircraft is rebuilt, he plans to regain his training license and his son, Stephen, will gain his license in the same aircraft.
David stressed that this plane is a tribute to the honor and memory of Robert Earl Godwin and serves as a tribute to the Godwin family.