Ben Templeton’s Excellent Adventure

Author: Alexandria Brooks
Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2021 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Aviation | In the News | Students | Pressroom

Eastman, GA

In summer 2021, Ben Templeton, now a freshman in MGA's aviation program, flew a 1947 Piper J-3 Cub to all 48 contiguous states. He earned his pilot's license at age 17, before graduating from high school. The top image shows him at MGA's Eastman Campus standing next to a poster promoting his cross-country flight. The image below is the aircraft he piloted solo to 48 states.
Ben Templeton could fly a plane before he could drive a car.

At 18, when some teenagers are still getting their driver’s licenses, Templeton has flown cross-country to 48 states. Sometime soon, he hopes to have hit all 50.

A Cochran-based freshman in Middle Georgia State University's School of Aviation, Templeton is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Science and Management and dreams of flying for a major airline.

“Hopefully Delta,” he said.

Templeton takes to the sky with great ease. He says he gets his love of flying from his father, a pilot himself, who took him on his first flight at only 2 years old. Some might say he was born to fly.

"Growing up flying with him - I just really wanted to be a pilot.”

At age 9, Templeton threw himself into his passion and began focusing on getting his pilot’s license. He took his first solo flight at 16. At 17, he received both his driver’s and pilot’s licenses before he’d even graduated high school.

Templeton works for Triple Tree Aerodrome (TTA), a non-profit organization located in Woodruff, S.C., that works to ignite and expand the passion for aviation through events, education, and fellowship. He began flying the organization’s 1947 Piper J-3 Cub to “goof off in it,” giving rides for people for fun. All that changed this past spring when Templeton was asked to fly cross-country as a youth ambassador for TTA.

“We were sitting at lunch one day and the guy who runs the airport mentioned flying the Cub to the 48 contiguous states,” he said. “Everybody kind of laughed at the idea because the plane is too slow to do it. We all thought he was joking but he was serious.”

TTA began scouting for pilots and Templeton jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I came back the next week with a full flight plan and a list of phone numbers for each airport. He said go for it.”

Ben and TTA began planning the cross-country journey and raising funds for lodging, food, and fuel expenses.

“Our goal was $15,000 for the whole trip but we ended up raising like $25,000.”

Templeton’s transportation for the trip - the 1947 Piper J-3 Cub - has no battery and must be hand-cranked to start. Triple Tree’s founder Pat Hartness bought the plane from EAA, who had it restored to sell. Hartness’s stepson flew the Cub coast-to-coast in 1999 before it was taken to TTA in 2000 to use as a community plane for flying. Before the trip, the plane underwent maintenance that included a full overhaul of the engine so that it was ready to go cross-country. Still, Templeton’s mother was uneasy about her son’s journey.

“My dad was cool, absolutely. He said ‘go for it’ the whole time. He's done a couple coast-to-coast trips so he thought it was cool - no concerns about it. My mom was pretty scared. After explaining that I’m only flying 70 to 100 miles at a time, stopping in between, she was fine with it.”

This past June, while his high school friends were crossing the graduation stage in South Carolina, Templeton was crossing the country with a bird’s eye view.

“Graduation was the day I left. I was by myself. There was no support team flying with me.”

As an ambassador for Triple Tree Aerodrome, Templeton made stops throughout his journey to promote youth in aviation. Although he was flying solo, he had help along the way from his fellow aviators.

“There were a lot of people that wanted to help out and a lot of big names in aviation that reached out who wanted to provide food, lodging - stuff like that.”

One of those big names was Julie Clark, a woman Templeton speaks of with the upmost admiration.

“That was my favorite stop - Cameron Park, California. Julie called me and asked me to stay at her place for the weekend. She's been doing air shows for 40 years in a T-34. I stayed with her and got to see all of her airplanes, which was really cool.”

Most stops, Templeton stayed with guests or slept on the couches or floors of airports. He also recalls spending one night in a tent.

“I didn’t care (where I stayed). I think I stayed in five hotels the whole time.”

Templeton’s epic adventure took 35 days (25 of which consisted of flying), 160 hours, 106 stops, and covered 7,700 miles. Although he didn’t have any trouble with the plan itself, Mother Nature wasn’t as kind.

“There were a couple of days I had to wait to fly because of weather but I was fine. Everyone helped out.”

The bright yellow Cub now resides in South Caroline at TTA adorned with black vinyl names of those who donated funds for Templeton’s journey and signatures collected from “interesting people” and those he knew from all 48 states.

“People fly the plane with those signatures still on there.”

Templeton remembers his trip fondly, noting some of his favorite stops and cool experiences across the U.S.

“On my second day, I flew down the Hudson River Corridor in New York and circled the Statue of Liberty. I was below the buildings, which was really cool to do in a Cub. I also got to fly over Lake Michigan and see the coast of California. Then I stopped at an airport called Key Way in Washington along the Columbia River Gorge. That's one of my favorite airports that I’ve ever been to.”

Although Templeton is busy with finals as he wraps up his first fall semester at MGA, he’s already planning his next epic adventure.

“I’d like to fly to Alaska and Hawaii just to have flown in all 50 states.”