Rankin Ride Along: Tull Morgan, Washington International Flight Academy

by Syreeta Herbert

Tull’s tale is one that truly takes flight.

His name appears on the Rankin service calendar often – a frequent flyer (pun intended). He is a private pilot and one of the lead aircraft mechanics at Washington International Flight Academy, located just a walk away from Rankin within Montgomery Air Park. After helping maintain their fleet for around a decade now, we recently had the privilege of learning more about the pilot and his passion.

The WIFA aircrafts provide hundreds of flight hours per plane per month. Upkeep includes mechanics and our specialty: upholstery. Tull’s role makes this a match made… somewhere up there in the sky. While he repairs engines, the seats are uninstalled and dropped off at Rankin for recovery. Although we’ve been doing this ritual for years, his personal story is more extensive. Now in his 70s and still devoted to his craft, Morgan began his journey in aviation “a little late,” according to him. A background in mechanics started as a pre-teen turning a wrench around his father’s businesses, which ranged from the fuel industry to a cab company that morphed into DC’s first courier service. 

Following his own stints in construction and contracting, he began flying lessons as a hobby while in the restaurant world. Although passing on the first opportunity to purchase a plane from a retired military F-16 instructor, he did not miss out on experiences. Tull recounts “I like to work. I don’t want to play,” as he speaks of the gentleman having to return several times to convince him to fly in a Bulldog. His respect for the pilot eventually won over his disinterest. The ride included loops and an inverted loop on the return trip. “You come back and your body has been through a physical event and your mind has gone through several different changes… and you come back out smiling.”

“You come back and your body has been through a physical event and your mind has gone through several different changes… and you come back out smiling.”

– TUll Morgan

Wyoming was also Tull’s home for 2 years. “As soon as I crossed the street from the airport, I decided I’m going to stay out here and do something.” He started an 18 month NAEP class to work on planes and moved on to get his rating, pass through Chicago and return to the DC area.

Down the line, he did acquire his own Royal Air Force model, but sold it for good reason. He saw an upcoming international auction that would net him 9 Swedish Bulldogs. Yes, 9.

Bulldogs were manufactured predominately for the Royal Air Force. They acquired 220 and the rest were distributed around the world – including many to Sweden as observation planes. The makes were built for predictability. The military wanted a minimized margin for error in order to prevent pilots from blaming mistakes on the aircraft. Sweden didn’t care much for looks and painted their planes white with a red stripe except for 1 show plane that was used for demonstrations. Tull’s personal plane is a copy of that special one.

What about the remaining planes? He was cut a good deal for purchasing in bulk, however he didn’t keep them all. Some were purchased at a rate that helped cover costs. His departure was also conveniently postponed while he awaited better weather conditions. This allowed him to perform inspections and generate revenue while still abroad. In order to make the trip back, Tull was additionally tasked with upping his rating and trained for a week for additional licenses to fly the Bulldogs home. This was pre-GPS and synthetic vision. The flight back spanned Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and several stops in Canada – 46 hours of flight time led by attitude indicator & compass. 

Tull shares that just like his beloved Bulldogs, the flying world is also consistent. “You know what you’re going to get. This is a small world. There’s not as many airports as you think there are. And everywhere you go is the same… I know all the players within a 200 mile radius, I know who’s who and what’s what.” An aircraft allegiance undoubtedly, we sense what fuels his fondness. 

Learn more about Washington International Flight Academy and their services at learntoflydc.com.

We at Rankin are huge fans of community: the home grown, the hard-working, & the humanitarian. Extra points if it involves automobiles!

Being in the auto business since the 1940s, you can only imagine the sites we’ve seen and the people we’ve met along the way. Our journey and passions have inspired us to highlight local businesses and tradesmen that we enjoy collaborating with. So we’re introducing “Rankin Ride-Along!”

“Rankin Ride-Along” is a series dedicated to collaborators and specialists in the vehicle industry. It will feature a series of choice professionals that we’ve enjoyed working with over the years. As a business begun and mapped by way of a skill and service based reputation, we hope to keep the appeal of craftsmanship & commonwealth in the driver’s seat.

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