By Barbara A. Schmitz
Austin Bowman, then 14, recalled being upset, even mad, when his
parents sold the family’s Glasair in 2000 that his dad, Skip, had built soon
after he was born.
“I was just getting old enough to officially start flight
training,” he said. “But Dad sold it because he said it didn’t fit into the
family’s future plans. It was being flown less and less.”
While he might not have wanted to admit it then, life did
continue for the Virginia Beach, Virginia, teenager. And he was still able to
He worked two jobs to pay for flight training and soloed at 16,
after only 3.8 hours of official instruction, thanks to all the hours he had
spent helping to fly the Glasair with his dad. By 18, he had his private pilot
“Immediately after I received my license, I took up as many
people as possible for a ride,” he said. “That certainly boosted my popularity
in high school.”
In 2004, he graduated from high school and joined the Army. He
spent two years in South Korea as a helicopter crew member, one year in
Honduras doing medical evacuation, back to South Korea for two years as a Black
Hawk crew member, and then two years with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.
All this time he gathered ratings on his own dime: CFI, CFII,
multiengine instructor, commercial seaplane, commercial helicopter, commercial
single-engine, and commercial multiengine. And he also kept his eye on the
Glasair and its current owners, sometimes even reaching out to them to see if
they were interested in selling.
Then, in January 2017, he discovered that the Glasair was owned
by a warrant officer in the Army. Although they had similar careers, they
didn’t know each other. “I told him that I was going to Afghanistan for a year
and asked him if would consider selling the plane in a year when I returned,”
The other officer was starting an airline career the next year,
and the Glasair no longer fit into his life. So they made a deal.
“I used all the money I made being in the combat zone to buy the
airplane back into the family,” he said.
Three weeks after he returned from Afghanistan in May 2018, he
went to Alabama to fly the plane to its new home in Temple, Texas.
Finally, after 18 years and three different owners, the plane was
back “home” with the Bowman family. And that plane is again being used to
instill a love of aviation into a second generation.
Austin said he flies the Glasair once a week, and the first
person he took for a flight was his 9-year-old son, Ayden, although daughter,
Addison, 5, likes to fly more.
“If I fly without her, she gives me a hard time,” he said. “She
loves being at the airport.”
Austin said he flew the Glasair into Oshkosh on Sunday, 20 years after his father last flew it to AirVenture.
It’s not just that Austin feels sentimental about the Glasair.
It’s also that the airplane has quite a history as it set a speed record and was
used for NASA research.
Austin said his father set a world speed record in the Glasair in
1990, flying from South Carolina to North Carolina at 238 mph.
The airplane was also used for some NASA testing, in part because
his mother, Lynn, is an engineer at NASA Langley. The Glasair was used to
transmit weather and environmental data to the cockpit through a computer, and
to determine if angle of attack indicators could show how close a plane was to
These days after his kids go to bed, Austin often goes out to the
airport to work on his Glasair. He first ripped out and overhauled the
instrument panel, and plans to continue improving the aircraft’s performance
and modernizing the interior.
The Glasair helped to shape Austin’s career, and life.
“It was the first plane I ever flew in,” Austin said, who now has
15 years of service in the Army and flies intelligence-gathering aircraft.
“Growing up, after daycare or school, Dad would pick me up and we’d go to the
airport and go flying. Even weekends were spent out at the airport flying. I
grew up flying that plane.”