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Charles Finn, of 'Flying Finn Twins,' Dies at 72

September 12, 1986|JERRY BELCHER | Times Staff Writer

Charles Calvin Finn, one of the feisty "Flying Finn Twins" who battled the government for decades in what turned out to be a futile effort to start their own airline, is dead of cancer at the age of 72.

Even in death, the fight may continue, with identical twin George Finn carrying on.

"I want him buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno," the surviving twin said Thursday. "But they say there's no room for him there. But I'm going to fight to get him in--they owe Charley that."

The Finns were both Air Corps veterans of World War II--George as a flight instructor, Charles as a B-17 pilot with 63 missions in Europe.

After their discharges, the San Francisco-born Finns settled in Southern California, and in 1952 set about forming their own airline. They bought a surplus C-46 twin-engine transport for $21,000 from the Bakersfield school district, intending to refit it and operate it as the first ship of a non-scheduled airline called "The Flying Finn Twins Airline Inc."

But the federal government sued, claiming that the school district had no right to sell the plane, and the Finns decided to battle for their plane, using their own unorthodox methods. One of them stole the airplane, and hid it at a desert airport in Nevada. From that point on, the handsome and articulate twins were headline news.

Eventually the twins and their plane were found by the FBI. The Finns were charged with theft, but a federal grand jury refused to indict them because a key prosecution witness could not tell which of the identical twins stole the aircraft.

In 1954, in retaliation, the twins made a "citizens' arrest" of then-U.S. Atty. Laughlin Waters, handcuffing him and alleging that he was illegally keeping their plane from them.

In turn, the Finns were charged with assaulting and impeding a federal officer--and wound up with one-year prison terms. Imprisoned in Springfield, Mo., they went on a 71-day hunger strike, again making headlines. They were released after serving 115 days when U.S. Sen. William Langer of North Dakota intervened in the case.

The disputed C-46 finally was sold at a sheriff's auction in 1957 and, according to the twins, vanished somewhere in Africa.

Charles made his home in Redwood City and George lives in Carson City, Nev. Charles also is survived by a sister, Catherine.

A funeral service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at Redwood Chapel in Redwood City.

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