The ghost of Five Dollar Frank will soar
above the New River Gorge today...

... the choppy sound of his old plane
carrying passengers on a $5 adventure

By Bob Weaver 2003

Today is one of West Virginia's biggest tourist events - Bridge Day.

Bridge Day has lost a little luster without the late "Five Dollar Frank," the Fayette county flying ace who loved the skies like life itself.

Bridge Day was a busy time for Five Dollar, selling plane rides at his "Fayette International Airport" for the same price he starting charging 50 years ago.

It was a joy to take friends and family down to Fayetteville for a flyin' high trip with the crusty, opinionated old pilot in his rickety plane, who died in his 80s.

Frank Thomas reciting Edgar Allen Poe to his waiting customers

At least 200,000 will take to the bridge for the annual jumping event

You'd get more than a a little flyin' trip over the Gorge. You'd get a mouthful of political opinions, flying tales and poetry. Frank would take a break from his pilot duties and position himself with arm wavin' room along the runway and recite lengthy poems to his waiting customers - Longfellow, Keats and Poe.

We were forewarned Frank liked to scare his customers by feigning illness or cutting the engine, then asking the passenger if they could take over the controls. Once I was in the back seat with a first time passenger, when Frank gasped for breath, clutched his chest and asked my friend Tyler "Can you fly this damn thing?" as the plane went into a nosedive. Tyler told Frank he was willing to learn.

His nearby hangar museum was a treat. Lots of old items and fanciful creations like an electric chair for visitor photographs and a coffin that did some strange things when you opened the lid.

Frank, so it is told, was in trouble a few times for flying under the Gorge Bridge, much to the dismay of the FAA. I once asked him how much he would charge to do it for me. "Same price, just not on Bridge Day, too many people around," he responded.

About 200,000 people will crowd on the bridge today to watch four hundred thrill seekers plunge off North America's second tallest steel arch bridge.

Missing will be the buzzing around of Five Dollar's old plane, one the greatest sideshows you could ever experience.

Hur Herald ©from Sunny Cal
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