Freedom of Flight Award
My earliest fascination with airplanes was sparked by my WW2 Naval Aviator father, who learned to fly from his Aviatrix neighbor, Charlotte Frye, an original 99. Before the war, she bought the first Beech Staggerwing from Walter Beech, flew air races, airmail, and taught Boy Scouts to fly. In the early 60s on a school bus field trip, I made one of my earliest command decisions, peeling off from my classmates who were eager to experience carnival rides. I was more interested in airplanes tied down at the adjacent Griffin Georgia Airport; I found that environment intoxicating. This decision changed my destiny forever. The next day a teacher inquired about my diversion. Mrs. Wheelless quipped that I needed to straighten up—her son was an aviator in Vietnam. “You are the only one in your class that will be a millionaire! Pursue your dreams to learn to fly and never look back at losing your parents in the first grade. It’s up to you, no one else.”
Washing airplanes after high school and sweeping hangar floors paid for flying lessons. Flying with my boss and mentor, Bob McSwiggan, was invaluable. He would bark in severe weather, “Stay on course-. Fly to the lightning – it’s a smoother ride!” That became a life metaphor for me. While in law school, I worked for him as a charter freight pilot in Beech 18s and DC3s. On a freight trip, the boss shoved the company’s insurance file at me, I shoved it back. “I don’t know anything about aviation insurance.” Barking again, “LEARN !!! You are in Law school, Learn.” Unknown to me, Atlanta was the center of the universe for aviation insurance underwriting. While visiting underwriters, they encouraged me to start a brokerage firm based on my knowledge of Law and Aviation. Those visits saved my boss $185K. Some forty years later, Lance Toland Associates has become one of the most respected names in aviation insurance worldwide.
After a short courtship of ten years, I married my college sweetheart, Jan Brown; her dad was a WW2 Hump and career air force pilot. We started our family, Lance Jr. and Ansley Ruth Toland are our proudest achievements. Both are now grown, legacy fixed and rotor wing pilots, carrying on their independent lives within the family businesses. And might I add, they will have a lot of lightning to fly through!