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Sun, Apr 30, 2023

Piper Aviation Museum Dedicates New Exhibit

Piper Conceptual Artist Dick Clark Honored

Situated appropriately upon Lock Haven, Pennsylvania’s William T. Piper Memorial Airport (LHV), the Piper Aviation Museum celebrates the American light-aircraft marque after a fashion befitting its storied and historically-significant past.

The museum exists to preserve the history and legacy of the Piper Aircraft Corporation and its founding family—a mission it ably accomplishes by dint of displays featuring iconic Piper models such as the J2 Cub, the PA-12 Super Cruiser, the PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer, the loveable PA-23-250 Aztec, the sleek PA-24 Comanche, the once-ubiquitous PA-38 Tomahawk, and the superlatively-rare PT-1 and PA-29 Papoose—of which only one (apiece) were ever built.

In April 2023, the Piper Aviation Museum dedicated a new exhibit featuring the airplane styling and artwork of longtime Piper Aircraft Corporation head of styling and design, Dick Clark—not to be confused with the perennially adolescent D.J. and American Bandstand host.

Dick Clark was born 28 July 1920 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He learned to fly at the Latrobe Airport—now known as Arnold Palmer Regional Airport (LBE)—and soloed before he could drive. Upon graduating Greensburg High School in 1939, Mr. Clark received an appointment as a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot cadet, going on to serve as a combat pilot in the Second World War. A skillful and brave aviator, Clark soon found himself decorated with a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and five Air Medals.

Following WWII, Mr. Clark served his country as a DC-4 captain during both the Berlin Airlift and the Korean War. The end of hostilities saw Clark enter into the employ of the Far East Air Transport Service, for which he flew as a civilian.

Returning stateside, Mr. Clark took a job as a corporate pilot with Westinghouse.

Dick Clark’s airmanship was matched by a rare and unique artistic sense which earned him a freelance job at California’s Challenge Publications. His work was good—artistically relevant and engaging—and went on to appear in numerous national magazines.

Mr. Clark’s professional association with Piper Aircraft began serendipitously. While returning to his Greensburg home after a trip to northeastern Pennsylvania, Clark crossed the Dunnstown bridge and noticed—as any pilot would—the Piper factory girded round by a veritable phalanx of new airplanes gleaming in the Pennsylvania sun. Struck by inspiration, Clark made his way into the factory and inquired after employment.

Ever a company keenly perceptive of talent, Piper offered Clark a position in the factory’s styling and design department, where his eye and artistic sensibilities informed numerous legendary Piper designs.

In 1981, Dick Clark retired as head of the department into which he’d been hired almost thirty-years prior.

Mr. Clark and his wife resided in Renovo, Pennsylvania, where they raised a son and a daughter. Mrs. Clark remains, still, in Renovo—amongst her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and a nephew inspired by her late husband to pursue a flying career.

A large contingent of the Clark clan turned up for the dedication of the exhibit honoring their esteemed forebear.

The Piper Aviation Museum’s Dick Clark exhibit features a collection of thoughtfully curated drawings and sketches of Piper airplanes, aircraft interior design concepts, and numerous articles of personal artwork—conceived of, one and all, in a mind belonging at once to an accomplished pilot, a gallant war hero, a born artist, and devoted family man.

FMI: www.pipermuseum.com


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