The Spartan Black Cat with the 13 signifies that “Knowledge and Skill Overcome Superstition and Luck”. The Black Cat was the original insignia of the Spartan Dawn Patrol; its origin is an integral part of Spartan’s history, going back to 1929.
Spartan’s Dawn Patrol was promoted as an exclusive international body. In the course of providing cross-country and formation flying training, it also served to provide added glamour to attract students.
No history of Spartan would be complete unless recognition was given to the Spartan Dawn Patrol. The spirit that led to the formation of the Dawn Patrol probably was first evidenced by a group that called themselves the “Three Blind Mice.”
In 1929, three Spartan students, all from the New England states, roomed together in a dorm. They were enrolled in a Transport Course. They had observed formation flying as done by the Army, and got permission from the School Director to try it.
Spartan flight schedules began at the crack of dawn. The early morning take-offs and the ability of many members of the class to perform precision formation flying left little to the imagination in suggesting they were a dawn patrol.
Under the supervision of their flight instructors, they soon became quite proficient at formation flying. As more students became interested in formation flying, the name “Three Blind Mice” was no longer appropriate. A new name needed to be adopted.
Spartan flight schedules began at the crack of dawn. The early morning take-offs and the ability of many members of the class to perform precision formation flying left little to the imagination in suggesting they were a dawn patrol. True, it wasn’t over battle-scarred fronts to determine how the enemy had moved during the night (although many members would later be in WWII), but it was a group of dedicated pilots on a mission – learning to do what man had longed to do for centuries – explore the sky above.
The name Spartan Dawn Patrol was approved by the school officials. The flight students adopted it as their official name and the Spartan Dawn Patrol was born.They then adopted the insignia of the Black Cat to promote their strong belief that “Knowledge and Skill Overcome Superstition and Luck.”
The flight students who formed the Dawn Patrol knew that relying on superstition and luck was not an option. They knew that the knowledge and skill gained at Spartan was imperative to their success. The students thought of the most superstitious symbols and brazenly combined them for the insignia to place on the tails of their planes. The Dawn Patrol members knew that the “superstitious” symbols would have no bearing on their success because they relied only on their knowledge and skill!
As times change, so has the Dawn Patrol. Today it is known as a “cross-country-training combined with fun” activity of the flight school. In the early days, Spartan-manufactured aircraft were used. Since then the Spartan fleet has changed into Cessna 152s, 172s, 172RGs, and the Piper Seminoles. Some features, however, did not and will not change. The Spartan fleet of airplanes takes off at dawn, against the backdrop of a glorious sunrise. A breakfast with fun and fellowship waits for the arrivals at the destination. The return trip is climaxed when the Spartan Dawn Patrol Certificate is presented to each participant as a lasting memento of one of Spartan’s most cherished traditions.
Even though times have changed, the same spirit of “Knowledge and Skill Overcome Superstition and Luck” remains today as the underlying theme of all courses and instruction at Spartan.