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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team












Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Aviation Community Salutes Career of Pilot Dick Horowitz, Part 3

By Carmelo Turdo
The aviation community salutes the career of pilot and humanitarian Dick Horowitz, who recently completed his final flight as Chief Medical Relief and Air Transport (MAT) pilot at Wings of Hope. Horowitz, still an avid pilot and mentor to many current and future aviators, is featured in this series and in an upcoming video on The Aero Experience. Here we will explore the adventures and insights of the consummate corporate aircraft captain and world traveler who never lost his perspective as a generous and compassionate human being along the way. 

In Part 1 of this series, we looked back on Dick Horowitz's retirement as Chief Pilot for the Wings of Hope Medical Relief and Air Transport Program (MAT) last November. In Part 2, we shared reflections on his nine-year service at Wings of Hope. Here in Part 3, The Aero Experience presents highlights from an aviation career that took Dick Horowitz around the world and to the Gateway City.

In 2018, Dick Horowitz received the Wright Brothers "Master Pilot Award" from the Federal Aviation Administration in recognition of fifty years of safe flying over a career that has logged about 26,000 flight hours. From his first flight with a college friend to the present day, he humbly sees himself as a life-long student aviator. 

"Even though I have licenses that say other things, I am absolutely, definitely, a student pilot," Horowitz told The Aero Experience. "I have never had a flight...where I haven't learned something."

While serving in the U.S. Navy, Dick Horowitz initially learned to fly with the Purdue University Flying Club, earning his Private, Commercial and Certified Flight Instructor certificates in the same year. He had over 5,000 flight hours logged in his first six years of flying, mostly from flight instructing. He later earned an A&P Technician certificate and used his GI Bill benefits to obtain a type rating in the Learjet from Executive Jet in Cincinnati. Horowitz was hired to maintain a Learjet fleet in St. Louis, and ended up flying over 100 hours per month hauling automobile freight as well as he rose through the ranks to Director of Operations. He flew for Fru-Con Corporation for four years, and in 1982 began thirty-years of flying for the Peabody corporate flight department in St. Louis and Evansville, IN. 

"Then I came to Wings of Hope," Horowitz said after a quick recitation of his career achievements. "The best job that I have ever had, anywhere in my flying career. Without question, the best job, even with zero paycheck. Here I am, and I'm a happy guy!"                

Throughout his flying career, Horowitz had a running joke with his wife that his flying career would be complete when he made takeoffs and landings in all fifty states (not to mention other countries). Idaho was the last state conquered in 2003, so he received this memorial plaque in recognition of his great achievement!

Dick Horowitz was featured on the cover of Professional Pilot magazine thanks to his friend, founder and publisher Murray Smith. The photo was taken of him and his boss on the apron at Washington National Airport pretending to read, How to Fly a Citation Jet. While all-business in the cockpit, he is willing to make the best of the lag time, especially for a cover shot!

Dick Horowitz's aviation career is well documented, thanks in part to the FAA's "Blue Ribbon Packet" of records and a large scrapbook constructed by his daughter as a retirement present. In it are pages containing color illustrations, photos and articles covering everything from his first solo on February 11, 1968 with the Purdue University Flying Club at Aretz Airport in Lafayette, IN to corporate jet flights spanning the globe. Another page shows Lafayette, Indiana's Halsmer Airport, known for the Halsmer Air Car that was successfully flown in the late 1950s. 
He flew with famed meteorologist Theodore Fujita, taking photos of weather phenomena from a Learjet at 45,000 feet. For eight years he flew Learjets for charter operations and the Fru-Con Construction Company. Horowitz learned to "jump from perfectly good airplanes" (skydive) from a friend at the charter company, making his first 55 jumps using a Russian Para-Commander parachute.   

Charter pilots fly a wide variety of people, and the scrapbook revealed a sample of celebrity passengers flown by Dick Horowitz: Neil Diamond, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Buffett, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley just to name a few. Jimmy Buffett opened for The Eagles during an early concert tour, and Horowitz enjoyed visiting with them as they winged their way across the country.

From 1982 to 2012, Dick Horowitz flew for Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis and Evansville, IN (1987-1990), and for 25 of those years served as Director of Maintenance and Chief Pilot. Aircraft flown during these years include the Challenger 300, EC-135 turbine helicopter, Gulfstream 550 (13 hours St. Louis to Beijing, China) and the Hawker series of jets.  

"It's a real privilege to fly long-haul for a corporation because you get to see all sorts of things," Horowitz commented as he showed the travel photos in the scrapbook. Flights to China, Sydney, Australia and other major cities around the world are well represented in the scrapbook. As with the recent retirement flight from Wings of Hope, his final flight with Peabody Energy was marked in the finest tradition of a water cannon salute.

"Aviation has been very, very good to me, and I try to do everything that I can to encourage kids to consider it as a career path," Horowitz said as we toured the Wings of Hope hangar during our interview. He was one of those class act pilots who talked to youngsters before a flight, and even fired up the auxiliary power unit (APU) so that they could see the inside of the jet with the lights on and cockpit displays lit up for the extra "Wow" factor. He also has given free flight training to selected individuals who showed the passion and ability to succeed. So when Wings of Hope started their STEM program for high school students, Dick Horowitz was a natural presenter for the basics of flight seminar.  

"We have here at Wings of Hope what we call the 'Soar Into STEM' program where we involve school-age kids coming out here and not only hearing about airplanes, but actually, physically, getting their hands dirty taking airplanes apart," he recounted. In 2019, the class worked on a Cessna 182 that was later sent for humanitarian service with Wings of Hope in Paraguay. Here Dick Horowitz is shown pointing out the features of that aircraft to the students and also discussing basic flight controls using an RC model of the Fairchild PT-19 representing the actual aircraft he owned early in his aviation career.




"To be able to have done what I've done for as long as I have is really a privilege," Horowitz said as we concluded our visit. "Sooner or later, it's going to come to the end, and I'm going to be absolutely, positively, one hundred percent fine with that. Every day is a blessing until that happens."

The new video below features our interviews with Dick Horowitz during our visits to Wings of Hope:


The Aero Experience thanks Dick Horowitz for dedicating hours of his time over several months contributing to this series. We also thank Carol Enright, Wings of Hope Communications Manager, for coordinating our visits for this and previous stories over the last several years. And special thanks to Wings of Hope for hosting our visits and for all they do to serve others here and throughout the world.

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