Cessna 310

Historic aircraft at the White County Indiana airport (MCX)

In 1993, a friend of mine from Goodland Indiana purchased a 1963 Cessna 310 aircraft from an acquaintance of mine (friend of a friend) from Virginia. His son was the pilot in the family, but he loved airplanes. He used this plane in his machine manufacturing business. The seller told me that it was once owned by the pilot of the B-17, ‘Memphis Belle.’

It is a long story, but my friend had the engines overhauled in Kankakee IL in 1996. Sixty hours and a year later, it was in my shop, having become the victim of an inexperienced, unscrupulous mechanic. The engines had to be completely redone. Money became an issue and the plane sat here, in an open hangar at the White County Airport from December of 1997 until – well it is still sitting here. More about that later.

In April of last year, my late friend’s estate sold the plane to me, for debts owed. It took a while to get the paperwork organized, and that is now completed. In the pursuit of the history of the plane, I ordered its complete file from the FAA. It took a couple months but finally I received a sealed embossed certificate with a cd, along with a copy. I filed the certified record, and opened the copy.


General Aviation aircraft are often referred to by their FAA registration number. All US registration numbers are prefaced with the letter N. My 1963 Cessna 310 was assigned N1129Q by the FAA. N1129Q has been owned by only a handful of people. I studied each of the names, and then typed ‘Memphis Belle Pilots’ into Google. First up was Robert K. Morgan. Pursuing the web, I was able to contact a Linda Morgan, Robert K. Morgan’s widow. She responded within minutes of my e-mail. Ultimately, she sent me a copy of Robert K Morgan’s pilot logbook. My Cessna 310, N1129Q, was once the pride and joy of Robert K. Morgan, the pilot of one of World War II’s most prestigious aircraft, ‘Memphis Belle.’

His story is interesting, but briefly, he flew an early B-17 to England. He was finishing up flight school in the Army Air Corps as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He earned his ‘wings’ and Second Lieutenant bars on December 12, 1941 just 5 days after the bombing. His basic flight training was in Camden S.C., with primary training in Augusta GA and Barksdale LA.

He followed this with B-17 training at McDill Field in Tampa FL, and finished with advanced B-17 training in Walla Walla WA.

Robert Morgan was born and lived his life in and around Ashville NC. When he completed his advanced B-17 training and was issued a plane, he and his crew voted and named their B-17. Morgan’s girlfriend was from Memphis TN; his tail gunner swung the vote his way and the plane became known as ‘Memphis Belle.’ Morgan contacted Esquire Magazine, and received a George Petty pinup drawing from the April 1941 issue of Esquire. This was the pattern for the Memphis Belle’s nose art.

Morgan and his crew flew 25 missions before returning to the US. He earned the reputation of a good pilot; he never lost a crewmember. History indicates that his was one of the first planes to complete 25 missions over Europe, including Germany. In the early bombing missions over Europe, 82 percent of the B-17s were shot down. Morgan later explained what that meant: “You sit down to breakfast with 10 guys. You have dinner with 2.” It was for this reason that higher command determined that once 25 missions were completed, the crew could return home. Later crews did in fact stay longer, as the P-51 Mustang and the nose turret machine gun, among other things, increased the survivability of the bomber crews. In the final missions of the Memphis Belle, particularly the last one, the Army Film Corps was filming the war. Most of the actual war footage of B-17s was filmed from the Memphis Belle with Robert Morgan at the controls.

He returned home, and wanted to marry his girlfriend, but the Army liked the romance of him having a girlfriend. He and his crew were sent out to conduct a 32-city War Bond promotion tour. There are several accounts of his tour and it makes very interesting reading. The Army wished he and his crew to continue with the tour, but they were exhausted.

Morgan then discovered the somewhat secret B-29 nearing completion. He volunteered to fly the B-29, although his combat requirement was met. On Nov 24, 1944, his B-29 ‘Dauntless Dotty’ flew the first sortie on Tokyo with General Rosie O’Donnell in the right seat. Morgan was squadron commander. This raid was the first against Tokyo since Jimmy Doolittle’s raid in 1942 with the carrier mounted B-25s. Morgan was a prolific writer, and in his writings, one can see his pride in ‘America.’


The Cessna 310 is a marvelous product of engineering and workmanship. With six seats, nearly a ton of useful load and a speed of 200 miles per hour on 22 gallons of gas, this Cessna is the fastest economical airplane based at the White County Airport. When you factor in load carrying ability, the Cessna 310 is one of the fastest, most efficient planes ever built. It is a plus that this beauty was owned for a decade by a nationally known pilot and war hero.

Until recently, N1129Q sat mournfully in an open tee hangar, haven for starlings, point of contention for the White County Board of Aviation Commissioners (BOAC), for shy of eleven years. The BOAC had the open hangars painted… with no regard for 29Q. We have discovered that the aircraft paint is polyurethane, and therefore the overspray from the hangar paint was readily removable with lacquer thinner. We replaced her engines and propellers. N1129Q has now flown for over ten hours. Here is what is incredible… all lights, radios, transponder, autopilot work. This plane is now flying instrument flights. We have been on several trips with her. I am providing some multi-engine training with her.

Any old car buff will understand what I am about to tell you. How many have dreamed of finding an old Model A Ford, sitting abandoned in a barn, waiting to be discovered, purchased and restored? How many have actually done just that? Imagine rebuilding such a “find” and discovering that it has a history. That is how I feel about my 310. It is not merely a wonderful transportation piece, a marvel of engineering and manufacturing by the folks at Cessna Aircraft Company; N1129Q is a time machine. I sense Colonel Robert Morgan smiling down on her as we travel along.