Final Flights November 2009

 - October 29, 2009, 7:11 AM

Richard Whitcomb, 88, the long-time NASA engineer des-cribed as the most significant aerodynamics contributor of the second half of the 20th century, died on October 13 in Newport News, Va. He was the recipient of the prestigious Collier Trophy for his discovery of the area rule fuselage, which gave fighter jets supersonic speed and greater range, and his supercritical wing and winglets are found on many of today’s aircraft designs. He was also awarded the National Medal of Science, the NAA Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, among others.

William DeCota, 52, the long-time aviation director of the Port Authority of New York and Jersey, died suddenly on September 11. He joined the agency in 1982 as a financial analyst and became a national authority on major airport issues, and a strong proponent of programs to modernize the U.S. aviation system and reduce flight delays. Responsible for one of the busiest aviation regions in the world, his oversight included John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, La Guardia and Teterboro Airports.

George Kocher, 55, CitationAir’s vice president for Northeast field sales, died on October 18 at his home in Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. A veteran in business aviation, he traced his career back to Raytheon Travelair, where he was one of the company’s first salesmen.

William Schoneberger, 83, aviation author, historian and former aerospace executive, died on August 31 in Santa Barbara, Calif. He spent 17 years as the head
of public relations and advertising with GE’s engine division before moving to California as head of communications for Northrop. A former president of the Aero Club of Southern California and vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, Schoneberger was instrumental in negotiations with Howard Hughes’ estate to have the mammoth Spruce Goose placed on display. A recipient of the Lyman Award for outstanding achievement in aerospace writing, he was the author of nine books chronicling the progress of U.S. aviation.

Francis Rogallo
, 97, the father of the hang glider and the flexible wing, died September 1. Rogallo, a Stamford engineering graduate, and his wife conceived the flexible wing during the 1940s but found little interest even from Rogallo’s employer, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later NASA). Instead the patented design was first produced as a highly maneuverable kite. The couple later donated their patent to the government so the information could be widely distributed. The first manned hang-glider flight is believed to have occurred in 1961. Rogallo retired in 1970 and at age 62 took up hang gliding.

William Strohmeier, 93, pilot, aviation public relations consultant and author, died on September 24 in Westwood, Mass. A flight instructor during World War II, he was a recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilots Award from the FAA, for almost seven decades of flying with a perfect flight record.

Tom Rogers
, 60, the retired owner and operator of Santa Maria, Calif.-based avionics dealer and installer Avionics West, died on October 5 in Birmingham, Ala., after a long respiratory illness contracted during his efforts as a disaster relief volunteer. A U.S. Navy veteran, he later ran an online avionics business.