By Ruth Ann Ingraham
Clarence “Cap” Cornish was an Indiana pilot whose life spanned all but five years of the Century of Flight. He began flying at the age of nineteen, piloting a “Jenny” aircraft during World War I, and continued to fly for the next seventy-eight years. In 1995, at the age of ninety-seven, he was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest actively flying pilot.
The mid-1920s to the mid-1950s were Cornish’s most active years in aviation. He went on to run a full-service flying business, served as chief pilot for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, managed the city’s municipal airport, helped monitor and maintain safe skies above the continental United States during World War II, and directed Indiana’s first Aeronautics Commission.
Ruth Ann Ingraham has a BS degree in French and political science from Purdue University. A naturalist and native plant advocate, she is the author of the memoir Swimming with Frogs: Life in the Brown County Hills, which interweaves observations of nature with reflections on life and love. She is the co-founder of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society and the Brown County Native Woodlands Project, and she is involved in the Indianapolis Woman’s Club, a literary organization founded in 1875, in which active members biannually write and read papers on topics of their choosing.
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