During a long ago summer afternoon, young Bobby Raines lay in his backyard watching an airplane fly gracefully through the clouds. He remembers thinking how special it would be to fly his own plane.
Raines was born 84 years ago at home in the west end of Huntington. He says the only hobby he remembers was his paper route that stretched from 1st Street West into Westmoreland, parts of Spring Valley and Harveytown. That paper route would provide the means to change his world.
“My father went through two marriages and fathered enough kids for a football team with a few cheerleaders,” Raines said. “He never owned a car, always rode the bus wherever he went. He rode the 26th Street ferry crossing to get to work at the Ohio River Coal Company across the river. We were poor, and my paper route provided things that I otherwise would do without.”
Like the Schwinn LaSalle bicycle he bought from Snider’s Bicycle shop to deliver papers. The bike was also transportation for swimming at Haney’s Branch on 12 Pole Creek and the Ohio River.
Raines walked to Jefferson Grade School, where he became captain of the safety patrol because his teacher, Ms. Bias, liked him. West Junior High School was another walk where he played football until practice interfered with his paper route. That’s when he quit sports. “Only so many hours in a day,” Raines said.
“I graduated from Huntington High in 1955,” he said. “My paper route now included Park Hills. I had my brothers, Jack, Jim, Don and Lee, help me at times.”
His life took a change of direction after high school when an older friend offered to take him for an airplane ride if he paid for the gas. That flight scared the living hades right out of his skin with maneuvers Raines never thought possible.
“I remember getting out of that plane thinking that flying should be more enjoyable,” Raines said. “I walked straight over to the airport office and asked about flying lessons.”
About the same time, Raines became a district manager for the newspaper. His boss was Haven Fetty. He was now responsible for about 50 newspaper carriers and his own paper route and was making around $280 a month as a teenager.
“I began flying lessons in the fall of 1955,” Raines said. “Lessons were $30-$40 an hour. My instructor was Ralph Parr. Because of the cost, it took nearly six months to become qualified as a student. I needed another 15 hours to become certified to carry a passenger. I enjoyed flying so much I bought a Cessna 140 single-engine plane that I financed at the bank in Ceredo.”
As a student pilot, Raines owned the sky in his 10-year-old mortgaged Cessna that he bought for $3,500. In 1956 he earned his private pilot license that made flying passengers legal during daylight with good visibility. He had finally outgrown the bicycle and the paper route.
“I began flying couples to ball games in Cincinnati. That helped accumulate 200 hours needed for my commercial pilot license,” Raines said. “I began additional flight training wearing a dark hood that qualified me to fly during inclement weather (IFR). When I became instrument qualified, I set my sights on another level of flying.”
Eventually, Raines became qualified to fly twin engine aircraft. In 1959 he became the personal pilot of Harry Rainer, a coal magnate in eastern Kentucky. He kept that position for four years.
“When Edward Breathitt was running for Kentucky governor in 1963, I flew him to all his campaign stops. A nice man who offered me a position that I felt would be over when he left office, so I declined.”
Instead, Raines began working for Allegheny Airlines flying the twin engine Convair CV-580. He stayed in that position for 30 years until he retired after logging more than 26,000 flying hours.
“Most flights went flawless with Allegheny,” Raines said. “One flight on Aug. 20, 1971, was unforgettable. While attempting to land in Parkersburg, the right landing gear fell off. I immediately lifted off again and flew toward Pittsburgh because of more safety equipment and a longer runway. Landing at Pittsburgh, the aircraft was a total loss, but no one was hurt.”
Raines was awarded the George Civilian Airmanship Award in 1971. Selected each year by a FAA committee, it honors a certified commercial airline pilot who demonstrates ability, judgment and heroism above and beyond normal operational requirements.
Now semi-retired, Raines is the owner of Hallmark Motor Company next to Big Sandy Superstore in South Point, Ohio.