1999 Hall of Fame Inductee-
This article originally appeared in the January 2000 issue of Vintage Airplane magazine
Gene’s passion for EAA and vintage aviation is evident in the dedicated ways he has served the association and worked for the preservation of antique and classic aircraft.
He has flown over 331 aircraft and has maintained a flight instructor’s certificate for 50 years, training people to safely operate their airplanes of various vintages.
Gene has also made many first flights of restored antiques and homebuilt aircraft. His meticulous approach to flying has earned him the reputation as an excellent pilot. He has had the opportunity to fly many of the treasures in the EAA Aviation Foundation collection, including the XP-51, P-64, Taylor Aerocar and Ford Trimotor to name a few. In his commitment to the future of aviation, Gene has flown 189 Young Eagles.
Gene first served as Chairman of the Antique Judges committee in 1970, having worked with Jack Cox the previous year.
1973 found Gene beginning his tenure as a staff member at EAA where he was first hired as a public relations director, then as business manager. In that role, Gene used his knowledge of computer programming to implement EAA’s first computerized membership database program.
In 1979 Gene was promoted to Editor of Vintage Airplane Magazine. There he continued to serve the Antique/Classic membership until his retirement as Senior Editor of EAA Publications in 1987.
Gene served as an Antique/Classic Division Director from 1989 until 1996, during which time he again served as an antique airplane judge.
Graduating from high school in 1941, Gene entered the Navy’s V-1 program and headed off to his first year in college. He pass an exam to exempt out of his second year of college, and then became a Naval Aviation Cadet. He progressed through flight training, earning his Navy wings of gold at Corpus Christi, TX. Carrier qualified in Grumman TBF and TBM torpedo bombers, he was given the opportunity to transfer to the Naval Reserve when the war ended. He continued to fly Navy, adding the F4U Corsair and Grumman Bearcat to his logbook. Later, as the Navy added kerosene-burning fighters to the fleet, Gene was able to fly the Grumman F9F-7 Cougar. He recalled that most flight operations were limited to nighttime, when the density altitude at Denver came down low enough to allow the Cougar to take off safely!
Gene worked at his day job as petroleum engineer and corporate pilot, and occasionally would be asked to fly some interesting missions. In the summer of 1956 he seeded clouds with a Curtiss P-40N for a hail suppression project in western Nebraska. The Weather Modification Co. of San Jose, California owned the plane.
An avid restorer, he and his wife Dorothy were active in EAA Chapter 10, co-editing the chapter newsletter “Spit and Wire” for many years. Gene helped on a number of projects over the years, and was in the process of building an EAA biplane when he learned the original Jim Church Midwing was available for restoration. He sold the biplane project and restored the Midwing. Gene flew the Midwing in 1970, and then donated it to the EAA Museum, where it can be seen today.