Out of the Blue of the Western Sky Comes…Sky King!

When I was a little girl, we got only one television channel. Fortunately, it was the channel with Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger and Sky King. As a kid, I ranked these shows in the same order I just listed them. Roy was, without a doubt, the king of my Saturday television lineup. The Lone Ranger second, and Sky King third. The reason? Why Sky didn’t ride a horse. He flew an airplane. His niece, Penny, rode a horse, however, so that made the show worthy of my attention.

Looking back, however, I think Sky had the most interesting premise–to someone who hasn’t put on her cowgirl shirt in preparation for a Saturday spent with her heroes. The show may have been based on Jack Cones, The Flying Constable of Twenty Nine Palms, California, although that has not been verified.  The hero of the show, was Schuyler “Sky” King, a former military pilot. He lived on the Flying Crown Ranch in Arizona with his niece, Penny,  played by Gloria Winters, and nephew, Clipper, played by Ron Hagerthy. Like many ranchers living in remote areas, he had a small Cessna airplane, Songbird, but in addition to checking the herds, the condition of the range, and traveling to town for supplies, Sky also used his plan to capture criminals and spies, solve crimes and  find people who lost their way in the desert. He had help in the form of the local sheriff, Mitch, played by Ewing Mitchell.

During the half hour show, people would get themselves into trouble, and with the help of the Songbird, Sky would rescue them. I particularly remember Penny getting into a boatload of trouble. She was forever getting captured, and that kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering how Sky was going to get her out of this mess.

The radio show ran from 1946 to 1954 and the television version, starring Grant Kirby as Sky, started in 1951. For a time the radio and television versions ran simultaneously. The television version lasted until 1962. According to Wikipedia, “the plot lines were often simplistic, but Grant was able to bring a casual, natural treatment of technical details, leading to a level of believability not found in other TV series involving aviation or life in the American West. Likewise, villains and other characters were usually depicted as intelligent and believable, rather than as two-dimensional. The writing was generally above the standard for contemporary half-hour programs, although sometimes critics suggested that the acting was not.”

Hmm–I remember the acting as being superlative. And if Sky had ridden a horse as often as he flew the plane, Sky King might have bumped The Lone Ranger out of second place in my personal favorites standings. Interestingly, the show was popular in the aviation community, even though it was written for kids, and several astronauts noted it as a show that influenced them as they grew up.

If you remember Sky King, or want to know more, there is an official Sky King website you might want to check out, and all the episodes are also available on DVD. There is also a Sky King Fan Club page.

Quick question–do you remember Sky King? If not, did you have a favorite TV cowboy? Or pilot?

Have a great day!

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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

16 thoughts on “Out of the Blue of the Western Sky Comes…Sky King!”

  1. Oh Jeannie, this post brought back such fond memories! I too remember sitting in front of the television on Saturday morning watching these wonderful shows with rapt attention. The other show I enjoyed that you haven’t listed here was Rin Tin Tin – gotta love a show that features a dog! I haven’t thought of Sky King in years, but it was such a fun show. Thanks for bringing me back to my childhood this morning.

  2. I loved RinTinTin! At the time that was on, I lived in a place called Talache, and when people asked where I lived, I would tell them “Talache. It rhymes with Fort Apache.” Good times. Thanks for the memory, Winnie.

  3. Oh yes, I remember these shows, as well as Annie Oakley, Fury, Rin Tin Tin, Wild Bill Hickcock and I had almost forgotten about Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. Loved them all as well as the Westerns that were on in the evenings. Sky King was my sister’s favorite.

  4. I didn’t get the channel with Annie Oakley and Fury, but my cousin did, so I watched those shows when I was in town. I loved both Fury and Flicka. I can’t believe how many shows I haven’t thought of and how good it’s making me feel to remember them. Thanks for posting, Sally.

  5. I don’t remember this, but I might be a tad young for it. 🙂 I do want to check them out, though! I bet my family would love to watch these. Thanks for sharing with us!

  6. I remember the three shows you mentioned. As a young’un Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Andy Devine, Gabby Hayes, Trigger, and Bullet the dog were my favorites. But as I got a little older, Cheyenne was my hands-down favorite, no ifs, ands, or buts. I watched all kinds of westerns but I was drawn to those by Warner Bros, like Cheyenne and Maverick.

    The “Heroes and Icons” channel are running some westerns these days:

    Monday to Friday:
    6AM Cheyenne
    7 & 7:30AM Wanted Dead or Alive
    8 & 8:30AM Have Gun, Will Travel
    9AM Rawhide
    10AM Wagon Train
    11AM Maverick

    5AM Stagecoach West
    6AM Branded
    6:30AM The Rebel
    7AM Broken Arrow
    7:30AM Yancy Derringer
    8 & 8:30AM Have Gun, Will Travel
    9AM Daniel Boone
    1PM Have Gun, Will Travel
    1:30 Wagon Train
    3 & 3:30 Have Gun, Will Travel
    4:30PM The Rebel
    5PM Maverick

    They used to feature more a lot westerns than the crime dramas and sci-fi (Star Trek versions) they now include, so I really hope they’ll go back to more westerns sometime in the future.

  7. Loved the old Westerns. Zoro, Sky King, The Lone Ranger, the Rifleman, Rin Tin Tin, Sgt. Preston, My Friend Flicka, and Fury were favorites. I also enjoyed Roy Rogers, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Have Gun Will Travel, Yancy Derringer, Cheyenne, and later Wagon Train, Rawhide, Maverick, Bonanza, and the newer ones. I really miss Westerns on TV. It is really a shame that they have been pushed out. There seem to be nothing but law enforcement, medical, and lawyer programs on.

    Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  8. I loved those same westerns, Jeannie. I was so naive I didn’t notice that the Lone Ranger’s show featured the same large boulder every show.:) I still love westerns, of course.

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