1988 Marion Cole
Included here are two articles about the incomparable Marion Cole. Both are from “SPORT AEROBATICS” magazine. When viewing his accomplished and varied career it becomes clear that Marion Cole is one of the great pioneers of American Aerobatics.
Fame Night (1988)
Editor’s Note: On September 26, 1988, following the opening day of competition of the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships, the second induction ceremonies for the Aerobatics Hall of Fame were held at Denison, Texas. Approximately a hundred people gathered for the banquet festivities at the Denison Rod & Gun Club to recognize and congratulate Marion F. Cole and Betty Skelton Frankman and to honor the late Mike Murphy on becoming the year’s inductees. They joined the four entrants from the year before. Two of them were present again on this night, Duane Cole and Frank Price. As chairman of the event and the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, IAC Director Dick Rihn provided the opening introduction. Keynote speaker of the evening was Charlie Hilliard, 1967 U.S. National Aerobatic Champion, 1972 World Champion and lead pilot for the Eagles Aerobatic Team. Mike Heuer, President of both IAC and CIVA, presented the interesting historical commentary on each 1988 inductee. His remarks are reprinted here as a glimpse into the highlights of these outstanding honorees’ lives and accomplishments. “SPORT AEROBATCS” magazine joins the countless others who salute these aerobatic trailblazers. – Jean Sorg
Highlights on 1988 Inductees
Aerobatics Hall of Fame
By Mike Heuer
The selection committee of the Aerobatics Hall of Fame has called us together tonight to honor three outstanding individuals who have made major contributions to the field of aerobatics. After reviewing dossiers on many fine people, the committee determined that this year, 1988, we well recognize the accomplishments of Marion Cole, Betty Skelton Frankman and Mike Murphy. These three have advanced the art, science and sport of aerobatics.
Marion F. Cole, born in 1924, has distinguished himself as an airshow performer, aerobatic competitor, innovator, instructor, and as an active aviator in business and commercial aviation. Being the youngest of the famous Flying Cole Brothers airshow act, Marion wasted little time becoming involved in aerobatics. Encouraged in part by his older brother, Duane, Marion first soloed in 1940 at the age of 15. He has since logged over 28,000 hours in private and commercial aviation.
At eighteen, he became the youngest flight instructor in military aviation and taught both primary and aerobatic flying to Naval cadets in an N3N.
After the war, in 1946, he started his seventeen year career with the legendary Cole Brothers Flying Circus. Since the family routine ended, he has continued to fly solo acts and managed to get together with Bob Heuer and Gene Soucy to found the Red Devils Precision Aerobatic Team.
Marion has flown virtually every type of aerobatic aircraft ever to see an airshow flightline and he has become famous for his special routines with a modified Stearman, Bucker Jungmann, Pitts Special and an aerobatic Bonanza.
In the field of competitive aerobatics, Marion is known as a pioneer and a leader. When the National Aeronautic Association sanctioned its first aerobatic contest in 1945, Marion was there. He returned in 1950, ’51, and in 1952 he earned the title of U.S. National Aerobatic Champion – flying a highly modified 450 hp Stearman. He remained active in aerobatic competition over the years and in 1968 he became a member of the U.S. Men’s Aerobatic Team, which represented this country in the world contest at Magdeburg, East Germany.
In addition to becoming an aerobatic judge, he organized and administered many aerobatic contests in Louisiana. He holds EAA membership number 48 and IAC number 9. He also started IAC Chapter Two in Shreveport, Louisiana.
As his participation in aerobatic competitions dropped off, Marion turned to aerobatic instruction. He purchased the first certificated, factory- built Pitts S-2A and later developed a unique course for businessmen using his aerobatic Bonanza. Today he is still offering instruction in basic through advanced aerobatics in a Super Decathalon.
He holds FAA examining authority for low altitude aerobatic competency evaluation and the issuance of appropriate waivers.
As an innovator, Marion did things to his Stearman that became role models for the Stearmans in the airshow industry today. He was the first to develop a successful inverted oil system for a four cylinder Lycoming engine and he created an STC PMA for aileron counterbalances on the Bellanca 8KCAB aircraft.
Marion holds the ATP, CFI and CFII ratings and served as an FAA Flight Examiner for 20 years.
It is a privilege to welcome Marion F. Cole to the Aerobatics Hall of Fame.
International Aerobatics Hall of Fame
By Dr. Richard Rihn, Chairman, Hall of Fame Selection Committee
Each pilot who flies aerobatics owes a debt to those pioneers who preceded us. No one of us created the knowledge we now display without having the hard earned lessons of our predecessors given to us by someone, in some manner. Many of these pioneers have been honored by induction into the International Aerobatics hall of Fame. In this series of articles, short biographical sketches will help each of us to better understand the roots from which we spring.
Marion Cole was inducted into the International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame in 1988. His aviation career was unique and varied. Perhaps best known in recent years as an airshow performer, he has also been an aerobatic competitor, flight instructor, corporate pilot, and an aviation innovator.
Marion first became involved in professional aviation as a flight instructor, teaching primary aviation and aerobatics to naval cadets in the N3N during 1943 and 1944. At the tender age of 18, he was, at that time, the youngest flight instructor involved in military aviation.
Marion flew his first air show in 1946 at Kewanee, IL. During the ensuing seventeen years, he starred in the legendary Cole Brothers Flying Circus, which thrilled airshow audiences around the nation. He continued to star in airshows and produce his own events. He was the original leader of the EAA Red Devils Aerobatic Team. Other members of that team were Bob Heuer and Gene Soucy. Marion was the first in the industry to perform the inverted ribbon pickup with a wing rider, and the only pilot to perform the inverted ribbon pickup in an aerobatic Beechcraft Bonanza. Over a span of forty years, Marion shared center stage with most all of the major airshow stars. He participated in a wide variety of acts in numerous types of aircraft. During an airshow, it was not unusual for Marion to fly five or six different displays, which might include comedy acts, cartop landings, and displays in various vintage aircraft, as well as a demonstration in the aerobatic Bonanza.
As a competitor, Marion finished in the top four in the U.S. Nationals from 1949 through 1952, winning first place in 1952. In 1968, he represented the United States as a team member in the World Championships at Magdeburg, East Germany. He was a founder of EAA Chapter 48 and IAC Chapter 9, as well as Chapter 2 of Shreveport, LA. He produced many contests, even before IAC was formed. Many pilots received their introduction to competitive aerobatics at contest staged by Marion Cole. Among these famous names are Tom Poberezny, Gene Soucy, Mary Gaffaney, Bill Thomas, Clint McHenry, Bob Carmichael, Chuck Caruthers and many others.
As an experienced aerobatic instructor, after WWII Marion taught civilian pilots, instructing in the aerobatic Bonanza. He purchased the first Pitts S-2A and gave advanced spin training. He demystified the flat spin for his many students. With over 28,000 flight hours and more than twenty years as a designated FAA examiner, Marion has found time to become proficient in a wide variety of single and multi-engine aircraft (piston and jet). During his tenure as an FAA flight examiner, he gave Mike Heuer his commercial certificate check ride in a C-35 Bonanza.
As an innovator in aviation, he designed one of the first successful modifications of the Stearman adapted to airshow work. He also developed the inverted oil system for the four cylinder Lycoming engines. Marion holds the STC for aileron aerodynamic counterbalances (spades) for the Bellanca 8KCAB (Decathalon).
Marion Cole has had many honors bestowed upon him during his distinguished aviation career. One of his students wrote, “Those of us fortunate to be able to learn from Marion Cole know that his teachings are not limited to the attitude of the airplane, but extend to the attitude of the individual as well. Marion teaches good judgment, caution, respect for the aerial environment you are in, respect for the airplane, and as a byproduct you learn absolutely beautiful aerobatics.”