By April 25, 2016 Read More →

Bluefield native flying high at aviation museum

Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo contributed by Melvin Grubb Bluefield native Wally Coppinger stands in front of a Piedmont Airlines DC-3 at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C. The DC-3 was the staple aircraft for Piedmont Airlines, and the planes routinely used Mercer County Airport from the 1950s through the 1970s. Coppinger is executive director of the museum.

Bluefield Daily Telegraph photo contributed by Melvin Grubb
Bluefield native Wally Coppinger stands in front of a Piedmont Airlines DC-3 at the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C. The DC-3 was the staple aircraft for Piedmont Airlines, and the planes routinely used Mercer County Airport from the 1950s through the 1970s. Coppinger is executive director of the museum.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Wally Coppinger never planned to run a museum, or meet Clint Eastwood and Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger for that matter.

In fact, the Bluefield native said he never in his “wildest dreams” thought he would be doing what he is doing now.

But a lifelong interest in aviation has led him from what was once a volunteer position to the full-time job of executive director of the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

“I grew up around airplanes in Bluefield,” he said. “My dad, Bud Coppinger, was in the Civil Air Patrol. We grew up around airplanes because of my dad’s love of aviation.”

His father and Terry Childress were the only two in the Civil Air Patrol who had a pilot’s license.

“He and Terry would fly the T34,” he said. “They would fly that plane all of the time.”

During that time, he also got to know local iconic pilot and photographer Mel Grubb.

“I grew up knowing Mr. Grubb,” he said. “About two years ago when I went to Bluefield over Christmas we went out to the Mercer County Airport together.”

Although he caught the flight bug and wanted to be a pilot himself, his poor vision got in the way…

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