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All those Wonderful Stories

The Emperor's Pilot

By Claudia Cook Turner, daughter of Chief Pilot Claude R. Turner


The first airplane flight taken by Emperor Hirohito and the Empress was in August of 1953.  My father, Claude R. Turner, Jr., was on loan to Japan Air Lines as Chief Pilot from Transocean Air Lines.


My family has a number of stories associated with the Imperial flight.

My mother, Lou Ann Turner, had been confined to bed for the last trimester of her pregnancy with my brother Ted. Ted was delivered a month early while the Imperial flight was taking place. I helped out by coming down with the mumps on both sides for the second time. Neither my mother nor my grandmother could remember having had the mumps, so they hired a teen age girl from the neighborhood to take care of me. Mother took care of Ted and my grandmother took care of my sister Cindy. Our next door neighbor, Catherine Blinn, took mother to the hospital and we have referred to

her as our brother’s other father for years.  The doctor was most concerned about how they could notify my dad about the baby and I’m enclosing a copy of the wire sent by Roy Minson. I only recently discovered this while going through some family papers.


I had forgotten the story involving two of my first cousins until I was reminded by one of them during a visit several years ago. My aunt and three cousins were visiting from Oklahoma during the summer prior to the Imperial flight. The test flight was scheduled during their visit and my dad took my cousins Larry (age 12) and Bob (age 11) with him to test the plane. Apparently he did everything but turn the airplane inside out and my cousin Bob was violently air sick. While Bob was sitting in the cabin wrapped in a blanket with his clothes in a plastic bag, Jim Henderson walked by and said “Hey cowboy, next time bring your spurs and we’ll let you ride on top outside”.


The three American pilots are from left to right, Claude Turner, Sid Joiner, and Jim Henderson.


I do not know the names of the Japanese crew and cabin members.  I have also enclosed the picture taken when the Imperial gifts were given and am sorry the copy isn’t better.  The original was wrinkled.  My father’s gifts included a sake bowl with the Imperial crest, a thirteen petal chrysanthemum, and a set of cuff links in silver with a pearl center of the same flower design.  My mother also had the gift cards framed.  These remain treasured family items.

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