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Stories from our members...

Flying Silver Bars by George Loegering July 22, 2003

I volunteered to transport a load of silver bars because I like to fly. After purchasing my A-35 Bonanza in January 1966 I was so enjoying it that any excuse to fly seemed reasonable. As a result, most of my friends got rides to dinner and to see the city lights around the LA basin. They in turn would mention their pleasant experience and I found lots more friends. One of these was a young charter pilot who worked for a diamond wholesaler. His mission was to fly his boss in a light cabin class twin to various West Coast airports where business was done with local jewelers right in the airplane. His boss conceived this method as an impressive, safe and efficient way to do business. It was secure as he was always with his "product"and within the relative security of an airport. Not easy to do a "train" type of robbery at the busy airport with a secret schedule. At one point my buddy got me a real good deal on a ring and in return I took a sealed ammo box on a routine flight to Tucson. I was met there by a gentleman who not only knew my name and plane number but also knew a key word. I gave him the box. Later my buddy thanked me; I had delivered a box of high value gemstones!

About two years later I got call from a gentleman who lived near my homebase, he was referred by the diamond charter pilot and wanted to fly to Phoenix to pick up some silver. I didn't really understand but got some details when checking him out. My buddy said he was a wealthy guy working on a deal to take the delivery of the silver which would result in a tax loss and to give him some hard money. This hard money concept along with having freeze dried food and other dooms day items was a concept espoused by a fellow name Ruff (as I recall) as a fall out of the atomic bomb/cold war scare. By and by I wanted to go to Phoenix to visit my aunt and called the silverman. A mutually satisfactory time was arranged and off we went. My aunt had an emergency out of town at the last minute so I accompanied the silverman in a big Lincoln Continental that picked us up. After lunch, they did some paper work and then loaded 100 oz silver bars in new metal gallon paint type buckets with lids and put these in the trunk of the Lincoln.

As we drove back toward the airport I noticed that the rear end of the Lincoln scrapped the roadway at bumps. I wrote that off to the added security people in the car. As we loaded the gallon buckets in the Bonanza I tried to distribute them in all available floor space including the baggage area but ended up even using the rear seat. Boy, there were a lot of heavy buckets. The weight and balance with topped off left and right mains allowed for about 440 lb of silver with up to 120 lb of that in the baggage area. I rechecked my calculations as there was more silver than he originally specified. Although we were a bit overweight the distribution was good. I justified my cheating a little on max weight in that two trips did not seem reasonable and that some fuel weight would be used up taxiing out & doing a run up-no problem. The dollar value of our load boggled my mind at about $80,000 (as I recall silver was about $10 per ounce at the time). The take off was little sluggish but I attributed that to the high afternoon temperature. We had a long runway so again no problem as we lifted off almost normally considering the load.

The silver owner and I chatted on the return flight. He remarked he might make a planter out of the bars as they turn black at the open air. He thought that a planter in plain sight might be unique way to hide them: right out of middle of his garden. As we were discussing various aspects of silver all of the sudden I realized that silver was measured in troy ounces, 12 oz to the troy pound, not the familiar avoirdupois ounce of 16 to the pound. The former is 31.1035grams, the latter 28.3495grams so my load was 10% heavier than I calculated before takeoff. Saved again by the Bonanza's superior performance!