April 4, 2012

From the AOPA:
Veteran airshow, race pilot Howard Pardue killed in crash

The aviation community is mourning the loss of Howard Pardue, a veteran racing and airshow pilot, who died April 4 in a crash just after takeoff from his home airport in Breckenridge, Texas. He was 77.

Howard Pardue. Photo courtesy of EAA

According to local press accounts, Pardue was flying the airplane he loved best, a vintage Grumman F8F Bearcat, which burst into flames after impact not far from the departure end of the runway. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash, reported around 2 p.m. CDT, and a preliminary report is expected next week.

On social media and websites, tributes flowed freely for a pilot remembered for his skill in the cockpit, and capacity to inspire others. Veteran airshow and movie pilot J.W. “Corkey” Fornof said in a telephone interview that Pardue was both a close friend and “an excellent pilot,”

“He was a true enthusiast for anything that flew,” Fornof said. “A humanitarian, too: he put a lot of kids through college that didn’t have the money to do it.”

Pardue logged more than 11,000 hours in a flying career that included service in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour as a Naval Training Command pilot instructor. A veteran of the Reno air races, Pardue had a long history flying vintage warbirds, and supporting the warbird community.

Experimental Aircraft Association Communications Director Dick Knapinski said Pardue left a lasting mark through his involvement with Warbirds of America, and through the aviation museum he founded and operated: the Breckenridge Aviation Museum at his home field, Stephens County Airport. Knapinski said Pardue also was a highly respected performer at AirVenture and other shows around the country.

“We’ll certainly miss him around here,” Knapinski said.

Fornof said funeral arrangements were still pending as of April 6.

Personal Note
from Tommy Meyer:

Howard was my idol.  He flew his Blue F8F Bear Cat in many airshows and National Air Races.
I always loved all of his aircraft, especially the F8F Bear Cat.ll and the power that airplane had.
Minot Pipe, a fellow USAF Sgt who served with me on Guam and adopted father of mine, covered many control surfaces for Pardue and actually trained me on the art off covering aircraft using some of Pardue's stuff in my education.