After a ride in a mailplane at age 13, Harry Combs was hooked on aviation and made it his life. Combs, former president of Learjet, founder of FBO Mountain States Aviation, founder of AMR Combs and author and screenwriter of several projects about the Wright brothers, died on Dec. 23, 2003, at age 90. Mountain States Aviation was eventually incorporated into AMR Combs and later the Signature chain of FBOs. Many of the quick and attentive services pilots take for granted at FBOs have their roots in Combs’s firm beliefs about how business aviation pilots and their passengers like to be treated. –J.C.
Jerome “Jerry” Lederer’s lifelong dedication to preventing accidents made travel safer for everyone who flies aboard civilian aircraft. Lederer, founder of the Flight Safety Foundation, died on February 6 at age 101. Lederer’s devotion to safety began in 1926 when he worked as the sole aeronautical engineer for the U.S. Air Mail Service and oversaw the initiation of an aircraft crash-testing facility. In May 1927, Lederer inspected the Spirit of St. Louis before Charles Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight. His extensive career also included serving as chief engineer for Aero Insurance Underwriters, director of the Civil Aeronautics Board Safety Bureau and director of the Guggenheim Aviation Safety Center. –J.C.
Former AIN senior editor William “Bill” Wagstaff died on February 8 at age 49 following complications from surgery. Wagstaff was an aviation and space enthusiast with an in-depth knowledge of the rotorcraft industry and its rich history. During his 15 years with AIN, Wagstaff served in various capacities, including editor of and writer for the rotorcraft section, staff writer at the annual Heli-Expo and editor of online newsletter AIN Reports. Wagstaff was an engaging writer and conversationalist with unparalled insight. As someone said at his memorial service, “He was the one you would always seek out in a crowd.” –J.C.
Mesa Air Group founder Larry Risley, 59, died on September 22 from colorectal cancer. Risley founded the airline in 1982 from the assets of Mesa Air Shuttle, a single-airplane charter service he started two years earlier. Risley navigated the airline through difficult times in the industry without furloughing employees or imposing wage reductions. When he retired in 1998, Mesa operated a fleet of 135 aircraft flying under code-share arrangements with US Airways, America West and United Airlines. Risley earned numerous awards for his business acumen and outstanding management capabilities. –J.C.
A pioneer of noise abatement for the business aviation community, Fred McIntosh spent “most of his career doggedly representing member concerns during years of gentle negotiations with regulators at FAA headquarters,” according to NBAA. McIntosh, who died at age 87 in October from heart failure, served as the association’s director of operations from 1964 to 1983 and was instrumental in procuring the small-aircraft exemption that allows NBAA members to operate aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds under FAR Part 91, Subpart F. –J.C.
Borge Boeskov, who was responsible for bringing the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) into being, died on June 9 at age 69 after a long illness. Boeskov spent most of his career with Boeing, having started with the airplane manufacturer in 1965 in the flight operations department. Boeskov conceived the idea of mating the 737-700 fuselage with the 737-800 wing to create the BBJ. Boeing and GE partnered to produce the BBJ, which offers bedrooms, showers, office, dining and lounge areas with a 6,000 nm+ range. Boeskov was president of Boeing Business Jets until his retirement in early 2002. –J.C.
Jean Ross Howard
Jean Ross Howard, 87, died January 29 of sepsis. Howard learned to fly fixed-wing aircraft under the civilian training program during World War II; she even signed up to join the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, but she washed out of the program. She learned to fly helicopters in 1954. When she earned her helicopter ticket, Howard became the eighth woman in America and the 13th woman in the world to earn such a rating. In 1955, she founded the Whirly-Girls, an association of female pilots that now numbers 1,313 members in 41 countries. –A.Y.
Legendary airshow performer and aerobatics instructor Duane Cole died February 3 at the age of 89. Cole flew in his first airshow in 1940, the same year he earned his instructor rating. For the next 15 years he taught aerobatics to students in the Civilian Pilot Training Program as well as to RAF and U.S. Army Air Force cadets. In 1964, Cole organized the Reno National Air Races and served as the event’s director until 1967. Cole was inducted into the International Aerobatic Club’s Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Council of Airshows’ Hall of Fame in 1995. His clipped-wing Taylorcraft, BF-50, is enshrined at the EAA’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis. –A.Y.
Dave Pishko, director of marketing communications for Rockwell Collins, died suddenly on April 27 at the age of 61. Pishko, who had expertise in many facets of aviation, including communications, aircraft operations, FBOs, ATC and maintenance, was well known in the business aviation industry. Before he joined Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Rockwell Collins in March 2002, he held a number of positions at several aviation companies, including Teledyne Continental Motors, Beech, Cessna, Garrett, AlliedSignal and Raytheon Aircraft. Pishko was also a pilot, logging more than 5,000 hours in piston and turbine aircraft. –A.Y.
Flight Options executive vice president Richard Heckman, 43, died June 12 after a two-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer. One the founding officers of the Cleveland-based fractional-ownership company, Heckman served as v-p of sales and marketing since 1998. The company credits him with helping to build the start-up firm into a business that generates $600 million per year in sales. Before Heckman joined Flight Options, he served as the v-p of sales and marketing for Raytheon Aircraft, where he developed and implemented the company’s TravelAir fractional-ownership program. –A.Y.
Hubert Naimer, founder and president of Universal Avionics, one of the world’s largest and most successful privately held avionics manufacturing firms, died in Vienna, Austria, on September 12 at the age of 82. An avid pilot and accomplished engineer and entrepreneur, Naimer founded Universal Avionics Systems in 1981. The following year, he introduced the UNS-1 flight management system for corporate aircraft, sealing his place in aviation history. Until his death, Naimer maintained leadership control of the company and worked with the engineering department to develop new products and designs. –A.Y.
Leroy “Gordon” Cooper
Leroy “Gordon” Cooper, 77, died on October 4. Cooper was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts. In May 1963 he piloted the Faith 7 spacecraft on the 22-orbit mission that ended the operational phase of Project Mercury. The command pilot on the Gemini 5 mission, Cooper established a new space endurance record, traveling more than three million miles in 190 hours and 56 minutes. After retiring from NASA and the Air Force in 1970, Cooper served as a technical consultant for a number of aerospace, energy and electronic firms, including Walt Disney Enterprises, the research and development arm of Walt Disney Productions. –A.Y.