1921 – 2014
The Swift Museum Foundation is sad to announce the passing of Charlie Nelson on Monday June 30, 2014. As many of you probably know, Charlie was the driving force behind the formation of the Swift Museum Foundation which prevented the Swift from becoming just an occasional museum piece instead of the vibrant aircraft actively flown and enjoyed by owners and general aviation enthusiasts.
Charlie Nelson was born at Euchee (Meigs Co.), Tennessee in 1931. Charlie’s dad, was a tenant farmer, farming land adjoining the Tennessee River and now covered by Watts Bar Lake. Charlie entered the USAF in 1949 and was assigned to Keesler AFB’s Radio Operators School. His aviation fever began to simmer there as he climbed around in WWII B-29s, B-17’s and B-25’s there to be cut up for scrap aluminum. After completing school at Keesler he was assigned to Carswell AFB at Fort Worth, Texas with the AFSC of Airborne Radio Operator. Carswell was then a B-36 base and home of the 7th and 11th Bomb Wing of SAC.
While at Carswell he had his first exposure to the Swift and the Buckaroo that would later become a big part of his life. While enroute to the Federal Communication Commission office in Dallas the bus passed by the Temco Plant (building the Swift and the Buckaroo at the time) in Grand Prairie, Texas. There, in the morning sun, sat those shinny little airplanes. That July 1950 trip follows by just a few days the date of manufacture of the three T-35 Buckaroo’s which were later assigned to the USAF at Goodfellow AFB. Charlie could not have dreamed that 24 years later (1974) he would be purchasing T-35 s/n 6008 and still be flying it well into the 21st century.
After receiving his private pilot’s certificate, Charlie purchased a Globe Swift and fell in love with this most wonderful airplane. Interestingly, the Swift was manufactured in Fort Worth, Texas where Charlie served in the United States Air Force. There were many clubs or associations for various types of airplanes made up of members who had an appreciation of and interest in their particular type of airplane. Charlie saw a need to establish a type club for those with an interest and the same enthusiasm he had for the Swift. In 1968 Charlie placed an advertisement in a Tennessee aviation publication known as Trade –A- Plane. This advertisement was calling for interest in forming a type club for Swifts, receiving a newsletter, and the possibility of having an annual get-together. This call was answered with 126 replies, thus was born The International Swift Association which grew to over 1,000 members. The association is truly international as it has members from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil,France, Australia, Finland, Germany, South Africa, and New Zealand.
Charlie wrote, published and mailed a monthly newsletter of The International Swift Association every month for over 45 years informing members of safety, maintenance, flight information, social information, aviation events, FAA news related to General Aviation, accidents and, yes, the deaths of members of our Swift Family. This newsletter is always published on the 7th of the month and never late.
The first National Swift Fly-In was held in Ottumwa, Iowa in 1969. Following the 1982 World’s Fair in Tennessee all Swift Fly-Ins were held in Athens, Tennessee for the next 30 years. Recently the decision was made to move the fly-in around the country with the most recent one in Dayton, Ohio.
In 1980 Charlie was responsible for The International Swift Association acquiring the type certificate, tooling, engineering data, spare parts from Univair Corp, in Colorado, moving them to Athens, Tennessee and forming the Swift Parts Company. This acquisition would assure Swift owners of a source of parts to keep their aircraft flyable for years to come.
Charlie was responsible for forming The Swift Museum Foundation located in Athens, Tennessee which has on display many original Globe and Temco Swifts as well as memorabilia of over 65 years, drawing thousands of aviation enthusiast to Athens annually.
Charlie assisted in the negotiations with the Government of Saudi Arabia for the donation and delivery to Athens, Tennessee of all salvageable parts and air frames of the rare Temco T-35 Buckaroo of which only 14 were manufactured. One Buckaroo is on display in the Swift Museum Foundation’s hanger in the original RSAF T-35A Saudi Arabian Air Force markings.
In 1991 Charlie organized an event sanctioned by The National Aeronautic Association setting speed records from various cities to Athens, Tennessee. This event was in conjunction with the 1991 Swift National Fly-in and had 6 members of the International Swift Association participate. This event was selected by the National Aeronautic Association and The Federation Aeronautique Internationale as one of the “Ten Most Memorable Record Flights of 1991” for their flights in celebration of the 45th anniversary of the production of the Swift airplane. Charlie was one of the participants honored for their selection at an awards presentation held at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
The Swift Museum Foundation only exists today because of the vision, effort and dedication of Charlie Nelson. He will be missed but never forgotten.