Baker's love of flying lasts a lifetime
By April Durham
Warren Baker, 80, was born on January 6, 1920, in Delmar, Del., to George, originally of Muscatine, Idaho, and Lucy, originally of Nancy, France (located 50 miles east of Paris). After the couple married in 1918 in France they had their first and only child, Warren Baker.
Warner's father, who owned an electrical shop, had a fascination with airplanes. In 1928 he earned his pilot license and soloed for the first time at Pitcaren field in Willowgrove, Pa. Consumed with a love for flying, he was determined to have his son experience the freedom he felt during flight.
"When I was in the first grade my dad came and got me out of the old Delmar wooden school and asked the teacher if I could be excused. The reason was because there was a barnstormer (which is a pilot that flies around the country and lands to take up passengers) had landed on the edge of town. My father paid $5 to give me an airplane ride. That was in 1925 when I was 5 years old. It was at the edge of Delmar on the north side that I had my first ride and I was hooked," said Warren.
Lucy, Warren's mom, could obviously see a passion for airplanes developing in her son. Fanning the flame that had already been lit by Warren's father, she would tell Warren stories of World War I airplanes.
"I remember a lot of stories my mom use to tell me about airplanes in World War I. She told me once that a piece of a German bomb fell out into the street and went through the window and embedded into her bedroom wall. I still have that piece," said Warren.
By age 10 Warren had built his first model airplane. It was called a Lockheed, which was another name for the airplane Charles Lindbergh had toured Alaska in with his wife.
By age 15 Warren had begun to build other types of planes but not for himself. These were for his good friend Bobby Kelley. Kelley's father, who worked on the railroad, would supply his son with a quarter or two from time to time to purchase the model airplane kits from Woolworth's five and dime store on Main Street in Salisbury (now the downtown plaza) or to send away for a kit from the magazine Model Airplane News (MAN). After purchasing the kits, Bobby would give Warren the kits to put together.
"The first plane I built for Bobby was a Bellanca. It was made of balsa stick and tissue. It's a real thin, almost transparent tissue," said Warren. "I had made several planes before the one I made for Bobby but I looked at each plane as an opportunity to improve my skills."
After Warren finished building the airplanes he would sneak into the Delmar High School through an unlocked window located in the auditorium. Since it was the weekend, the school doors would be locked. After opening the window he would jump 10 feet to land inside the auditorium and then run around to the front door to let friends Robert Hayman and Clyde Hantewerker inside.
Baker recalls flying the airplanes inside the auditorium until a rubber band would break off the airplane or until the boys got caught by the school custodian, Mike Nelson. In the instance that the boys were caught they would run out the north exit door (before the school was remodeled), jump on their bikes and leave the scene.
After graduating in 1938, Warren joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, where he served from 1943 to 1946. Toward the end of the war he was supposed to be sent to the Pacific but instead was sent to India where he flew gasoline over "the hump" (the Himalayas) into China in late1945 and 1946. In 1949 he was hired to work in the electronics lab at Bendix (located out of Baltimore). In 1956, after serving in that department for seven years, the company, which didn't have the budget to hire a co-pilot, began looking around to see who in the company had some experience with flying. Warren was hired as a co-pilot.
Shortly after, Bendix obtained used airplanes (DC4 , DC6 and Lockheed Constellations) from the Air Force. The airplanes were used to monitor the space tracking station, which tracks satellites and space craft that go to the moon. All the airplanes were 4-engine propeller airplanes which are now obsolete.
For 13 years, Warren traveled all over the world, monitoring the tracking station.
"After the last moon landing NASA didn't have any need for our services so Bendix was out of the space program. In 1973 I got a job with a Hinson Airways which is based in BWI in Baltimore except for the last couple of years when it was based at Martin State Airport," said Warren.
In 1993 Warren left Hinson Airways. During his years as a pilot Warren recalls a few famous men who he had the opportunity to fly: Johnny Unitas, President Eisenhower's brother Milton Eisenhower and Maryland's comptroller Louis Goldstein. Today Warren works as a local instrument instructor.
After all these years Warren says that he still enjoys building model airplanes. Today he still keeps a Red Baron Free Flight airplane and a Curtis Robin airplane and he has three model airplanes that are radio controlled.
"One of the three is my own design. It's red and white. The second one has about a 6- to 7-foot wing span. I copied the model of Lindbergh's Spirit of Saint Louis. It's all silver and the third is a 2-meter glider. The wing span is 2 meters and it's red and yellow," said Warren.
"My favorite one is the glider. One of the tricks of keep your glider up a long time is to see what the hawks do. If the hawks are circling you want to get right in a circle with them because they know where the currents are," said Warren.
Although Warren admits that he doesn't have the opportunity to fly his model airplanes as often as he used to he still manages to attend the radio control club once a month.
At the meetings he has the chance to fly his model airplanes with others who have a similar interest.
Last Friday, friends and former classmates gathered in the Delmar High School gymnasium 62 years after his graduation to watch Warren fly his rubber band model airplane for the last time in the old school building.
"His love for flying and the pure joy that he has in being a pilot has inspired me to have a strong interest in flying and to love to travel. He's always been so young at heart and I think that's what helps keep you young at heart is when you love what you're doing," said Larry Allan, a pilot and a consultant for Lee Hecht Harrison.
Today, Warren and his wife Mary Louise, 78, also a Delmar native, reside in Towson, Md.
Together they raised three boys, Warren S., who was killed in a automobile accident in 1974, Ronald W., 45, who lives in Fork, Md., with his wife Karen and four children, and Allan D.,42, who resides in Glenrock, Pa., with wife Joann.