George Finn dead at 88
June 22, 2002
George Finn who, with his twin brother Charles, gained national attention in the 1950s by “stealing back” a surplus airplane claimed by the federal government died Saturday at age 88.
Identical twins, they were dubbed the Fabulous Flying Finns by the media during the battle for the twin-engined C-47 cargo plane.
Finn died Saturday at the Veterans’ Hospital in Reno of apparent heart failure. He will be buried next to his brother who died in September 1986, in the veterans’ cemetery in San Bruno, Calif.
For the last 30 years, the feisty Finn was well known to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, which he argued was unconstitutional because it violated the rights of individual property owners in the basin.
But it was during their fight over ownership of the surplus airplane they purchased from Bakersfield School District, that they gained national attention which eventually brought them to a U.S. Senate hearing into whether their constitutional rights had been violated by the FBI and U.S. attorneys.
The son of George Carroll Finn and Lulu Loeffer Finn, he and Charles were born Feb. 28, 1914 in San Francisco.
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The brothers were both pilots in the Army Air Corps during World War II. They were released from the service after participating in the Berlin Airlift and attempted to start an air cargo service by buying the plane, a military version of the DC-3.
But the Civil Aeronautics Authority balked saying they couldn’t legally buy the plane because it was supposed to be scrapped. Federal authorities ordered it impounded.
The Finns refused to back down, arguing that people with influence were being allowed to buy up surplus aircraft and sell them out of the country for big profits. They said nothing in the law prevented them from keeping the plane.
A lengthy series of maneuvers and legal battles followed. At one point, they were arrested by federal agents. At another, they made a citizen’s arrest of the U.S. attorney who was attempting to prosecute them — handcuffing him outside the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.
The dispute made national news after they took matters in their own hands and “stole back” the airplane, flying it out of Bakersfield to a remote landing strip in the Nevada desert.
There they held court for the press and a major confrontation with armed FBI agents followed. The result was more publicity including a picture of the brothers and their plane on the cover of Life Magazine.
Most of the resulting charges were eventually dropped — in part because the Finns managed to repeatedly confuse authorities about which one of them was which. In the end, the brothers spent several months in federal prison, but garnered more press coverage by staging a 23-day hunger strike.
Moving to Nevada after their release, the brothers took on TRPA as a cause, arguing that the agency had no constitutional right to interfere with private property rights by restricting development in the Tahoe Basin.
George Finn continued that battle until he was hospitalized in June.
“If George could talk to us today, he’d say this is the only way TRPA could get rid of me,” said Sue Morrow, his companion of nearly 30 years. “He was rabid about their violation of personal property rights.”
Finn is survived by Morrow; his sister Catherine Peter of Redwood City, Calif.; two nieces, Carol Tompkins of Newport Beach, Calif., and Barbara Ellington of Redwood City, Calif.; and nephew Ken Peter of Santa Rosa, Calif.
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