From; The Daily Advertiser - Lafayette, LA
Acadiana Diary: 'Who's Who' passed through Fournet hangars here
It was a particularly busy day during the heyday of the oil industry here, when the Lafayette airport was always kept busy by the comings and goings of corporate aircraft.
When yet another one taxied in to park in front of the general aviation hangar next to the main terminal, a man in a wheelchair rolled out onto the apron, hand-signalled the pilot into a parking place, and - after the engines were cut - took a chock from his lap, rolled his chair up to the plane, and slipped the wedge beneath a tire.
The corporate bigwigs who emerged from the plane had not flown to Lafayette before, but they were impressed.
"You know," one said to the other, "that Paul Fournet must be one heckuva guy to hire a handicapped man for a job like that."
Paul loved to tell that story.
He, of course, was the man in the wheelchair and the man who didn't let his "handicap" get in the way of working to make Lafayette one of the busiest general aviation destinations in the country.
He was only 27 years old and a veteran P-38 pilot in 1950 when the Stinson L-5 he was piloting crashed at the north end of the Lafayette airport. He received back injuries that paralyzed his legs, but not his drive, ambition, good humor, business sense or civic spirit.
An aviation community around the world - including astronauts, an Air Force One pilot, military and commercial aviators and hundreds of others who just flew for fun or business - told "Paul Stories" at his death in 1992. And this month they are further mourning the closing of the place where many of them learned to fly or loved to fly to.
You could fill a pretty good Who's Who with the names of people who passed through the doors of Paul Fournet Air Service - practically everybody who was anybody who came here by private aircraft.
There were presidents and president wannabes (Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2, Clinton), foreign dignitaries such as Giscard d'Estaing, a long line of entertainment names you would know, hundreds and hundreds from corporate board rooms.
They learned about bourre and boudin and heard a lot of aviation stories in the Paul Fournet Hangar. (What's the difference between an old fisherman and an old aviator? The height from which they spin tall tales.)
The place became an institution, beginning from the early days when the hangar stored more hay harvested from airport property than it did airplanes (and later housed Plymouths from Lafayette Motors and Buicks from Evangeline Motors), until those busy times when folks flew out of their way to sample Acadian hospitality a la Fournet.
The air service was one of those institutions run by that generation of World War II veterans who came home to build families and businesses and to contribute to their community in ways that seldom happens any more. That's part of why it will be missed, but it will be missed mainly because it was the place that kept alive the memory of that "heckuva guy" in the wheelchair.
I hate to hear another aviation landmark business is going to be a thing of the past. If you were around aviation in that part of the country, are old enough to have & never met Paul Fournet, you missed out. Paul was one person that I am proud to say I knew. He was a very generous man with a true love for aviation. The Cajun Wing of The Confederate Air Force was based at his FBO, & that is where we kept N62G, the CAF B-23 in it's flying days. As noted in the story, Paul was a former P-38 pilot, with service in WWII, flying photo-recon missions. The original "Scatter Brain Kid" P-38 was the pride of Paul, & Revis Sermon. Unfortunatly, it was lost in an accident there at the Lafayette airport along with the life of a friend of theirs. Paul was kind enough to donate space, services, & a meeting place for the Cajun Wing back then. His door was always open, & for a young A&P just getting started, I can say that just being around the man made you love airplanes. I know this all sounds kind of mushy, but when I heard this news, I just wanted to say what a shame another legacy FBO is going to be history. I know Mr Paul has been gone a long time, but he will forever be flying that big photo-recon mission keeping an eye on us Warbird addicts.
Fly Fast Make Noise!