1993 Clint McHenry
Clint McHenry is considered by many to a gentleman’s gentleman. In the EAA aerobatic videos, “Getting Started in Aerobatics” and “Flying the Maneuvers,” Clint’s stately presence and calm teaching technique are definitely on display. Two articles about him are presented here. The first, By Carlys Sjoholm, Sport Aerobatics, 8 July 1994, is the most recent one and is therefore covers the most ground. While the second article by Irene Rogers from Sport Aerobatics, 16 August, 1979 was written before Clint retired from active competition flying, (and before he got his medical certificate reinstated) it has the most complete rundown of Clint’s hard work, perseverance, mentoring, and occasional bloopers in his competition career. Also included is information about Clint’s family, and the fullest history of the all the different types of aircraft that Clint McHenry has flown in his long 28,000 + hour flying career.
Master of Aerobatics
By Carlys Sjoholm, Sport Aerobatics, 8 July 1994
Not many of us succeed in transforming the dreams we have as children into the reality of our adult lives. U.S. National Aerobatic Champion and Chief Aerobatic Instructor at Pompano Air Center, Clint McHenry is one of the tenacious few who has.
It’s a familiar story to most pilots, the early enthusiasm for airplanes. Clint remembers always being crazy about them. He was very young when be began making model planes – so young his mother insisted on cutting out the pieces for him to glue and paint, forbidding him to use a knife or razor blade. His collection included models of nearly all aircraft available in those days. He absorbed all the books and magazines he came in contact with and could identify most planes by sight and sound.
Unhappily for Clint, his parents were vehemently opposed to aviation. Living in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, their fears stemmed from the publicity surrounding several aircraft accidents in the area. To them it seemed as though any aviator of note soon died in an aviation accident. They refused to let him ride in an airplane and did not even want him near them.
In the late ‘30’s when Clint was about 11 years old, his family moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where the second biggest air show in the United States was staged (Cleveland hosted the largest). Clint practically lived at the airport during the show, fascinated by such performers as Harold Johnson executing loops and rolls and spins in his Ford Tri-motor, right on the deck. He was particularly impressed by the military displays planting the seed of his ambition to become a military aviator.
The family moved back to Berwick, Pennsylvania, in 1939 and inadvertently presented 13-year-old Clint with his first mentor. His uncle, Lee Fahringer, had become involved with flying and had purchased a 40hp J-2 Cub. His uncle’s invitation for a ride met with resigned consent from his parents and provided Clint with an unforgettable adventure. On this first flight, because Clint was so interested, his uncle allowed him to fly the plane – including the execution of loops and rolls. With a stern warning not to divulge the details of the flight to his parents, a warm relationship began based upon their shared interest in flying. The two spent many hours together in the air.
Their friendship tragically ended on June 9, 1940, when Clint and Lee went to the airport to fly. Lee went up with a friend for the first flight, while Clint waited on the ground. “He was going to let this fellow fly his Cub and the other guy had an American Eagle he would let Lee fly. I’m watching the flight and they crashed in the American Eagle, killing both of them. It was a tragedy that our family never recovered from. Sure enough, just exactly what my parents said was going to happen did, and to a member of the family.”
As you can imagine, it became increasingly difficult for Clint to get back into the air. Another move to a small town in Virginia when he was 14 placed him near an airport where he flew his gasoline-powered model planes. He became something of a local expert, demonstrating his ability to pull 10 to 15 minutes of flight out of them on a 30 second engine run, and persuade them to land right beside him if the wind was right. He soon had the run of the airport and a following of other model enthusiasts.
One summer day when Clint was 15, the airport operator called to offer him a job as lineman pumping fuel. Included in the deal were flying lessons. “Well, I about went crazy. At this point, my parents knew it was inevitable that I would fly. If you can believe it, my dad let me drive his new car to the airport every day and he walked to work.” Working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week (when not in school), Clint began his formal flight instruction at 15 and soloed at 16.
His early experiences with aerobatics in his uncle’s Cub whetted an insatiable desire to repeat the thrill. Having read all he could about aerobatics, Clint set out for the airport early one morning before anyone was awake. With seven hours of solo time, he took up a Cub and “did every aerobatic maneuver I could think of in the airplane.” Later in the day Clint confessed to airport operator his pre-dawn caper. “He just about died,” Clint recalled with a chuckle. Realizing Clint was not likely to stop doing aerobatics, the FBO insisted they go up and at least make sure he was doing it properly. Clint executed all the basic maneuvers, his boss told him he was doing fine and gave Clint his blessing to go ahead. Clint did just that. “I never stopped doing aerobatics, in whatever plane I was flying. I got to fly some nice airplanes too: Travel Air, Standard, Waco F. That was the beginning of my aerobatic career.”
Clint continued working at the airport and flying through his adolescence. As a high school sophomore Clint and another fellow pooled their resources and purchased a $500 airplane. They frequently brought their friends down to spend the night at the airport, then got up at daylight and took them for rides. Of course, these were surreptitious proceedings since he had not yet earned his Private Pilot license.
By the time Clint reached his 18th birthday and could receive his Private license he had accumulated nearly 400 hours in the air.
On August 3, 1944, shortly after his 18th birthday, Clint became an aviation cadet. This was near the end of the war, and because the need for military pilots was very low the examination requirements became very stringent. Of the 100 men who entered the program with Clint, only he and four others made it through the physical and written examinations.
To his disappointment, all he did was wait to start flying…and never started. “The bad thing is that I never got to fly the airplanes, but the good thing is that wherever I went I was always with a group of people who were aviation enthusiasts.” Wherever he was based all around the country, Clint found people willing to rent airplanes and have him teach them aerobatics. This allowed him the opportunity to fly a variety of interesting aircraft, with other people paying the bill.
Clint’s military service ended in 1945 right after the dropping of the bombs in Japan. A job offer from a friend in Waynesboro, Virginia, to be the airport manager and flight instructor brought Clint back to his hometown. It was an idyllic period of lying, playing golf and baseball, and living at home.
Soon, however, his parents began putting on the pressure for Clint to go to college. In 1946 he entered the University of Virginia. He continued flying and playing golf while attending the University, and after graduation became a golf pro for 1-1/2 years. About this time Clint met an Easter Airlines captain who said the airlines were looking for pilots. From 1946 through 1950 there were plenty of ex-military pilots available with thousands of hours experience, but now the supply was running out. Clint had about 2500 hours by now, mostly in small aircraft, but no instrument rating. His friend called Captain Frank Kearn, who was in charge of hiring for Easter, and learned that, given his background, if Clint received his instrument rating he would be hired. So off he went to Cleveland for a 12 day intensive instrument course.
Clint’s career as an Eastern Airlines pilot began in 1952, flying copilot on DC-3’s. He was promoted to Captain by the time he reached 30 years old. With a young family and his continued penchant for golf, recreational flying was not uppermost on Clint’s mind. While he had a Bonanza and a couple of other planes to play around in, he did no serious aerobatic flying during this time.
By 1969 Clint and his family had moved to Florida where it’s almost always good flying and golfing weather. One day a fellow airline captain and golfing buddy approached Clint with the news that he had done something the previous week he described as 10 times as exciting as participating in a golf tournament – he had flown in an aerobatics contest. Clint had just been reading about the World Aerobatic Championships and his interest was sparked.
Clint borrowed a Citabria with an inverted system from a friend. That did it. He immediately purchased one for himself, and became involved in competition, promptly falling in love with the sport.
His enthusiasm for aerobatic competition took him to the 1971 National Aerobatic Championships in Fort Worth as a spectator. Accompanied by his two young adolescent boys, Clint declared, “If I can see that some people fly clearly better than others, and if they are successful…I’m going to buy a Pitts and I’m going to be on the U.S. Aerobatic Team.”
That year Gene Soucy won every flight. “He flew just like it was magic.” Clint couldn’t keep his eyes off Soucy’s plane.
“I came home, bought an airplane, and in 1972 I flew in the Nationals and finished sixth and beat four U.S. Team members in Unlimited.” With the hours and hours of practice Clint flew trying to attain the skills to fly Unlimited, he nearly wore out the Pitts. He began flying Unlimited in 1972 and made the U.S. Team in ’73 for the 1974 World Championships, which were cancelled. He won a position on the U.S. Team in ’75 for the ’76 World Championships, which were staged in Russia.
And then on January 24, 1977, an event occurred which had a dramatic effect on the next eight years of Clint’s life. Due to a blackout episode, that was most likely a result of extreme exhaustion, Clint lost his medical and thus began one of the most involved struggles ever to reinstate a medical certificate.
By May of that same year he had submitted to extensive medical testing with the result that no physical deficiency was found. The Eastern Airlines medical staff pronounced him fit to resume work; his aviation examiner could find nothing wrong and told him to go ahead a fly. However, his First Class had expired and the FAA refused to reinstate it. So, although he was not allowed to fly for the airline, he continued with his aerobatic competition, winning every contest, as well as the Soucy Award that year. That is he continued until September 15, 1977, when he received a letter from the FAA denying him his medical and totally grounding him. From that point ensued years and hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the decision.
Unable to fly, Clint maintained his connection for a time with sport aerobatics by judging at the Nationals. However, he missed the flying so much he felt it best to get completely away from it. This sabbatical lasted about a year, until Mike Heuer of the International Aerobatic Club contacted him. The IAC needed his talent and knowledge of judging and rules. Clint returned and became more involved than ever, ultimately becoming President of the U.S. Aerobatic Foundation.
Clint agreed to be the trainer and chief delegate for the U.S. Aerobatic Team in 1981. The job of arranging a practice site in Europe fell to him. He made a phone call to a friend at the FAA regarding facilitating a meeting with the FAA in Frankfurt. During the conversation, Clint learned of a new FAA clause that would allow him back into the cockpit. “It said that if you have a physical problem and cannot qualify for a medical certificate, but if you are a flight instructor, as long as you fly with somebody who can act as pilot in command, you can give instruction and charge for it. That just changed my whole life.”
Clint had been involved with the aerobatic school at Pompano Air Center since 1976 when John and Brian Becker started the operation. Now once again he was back instructing and the aerobatic program continued to grow.
During these years, the battle continued in the attempt to regain his First Class medical certificate. He was unsuccessful in the courts, but finally after five years was given a special Third Class certificate by the Federal Air Surgeon. With this Clint resumed competition and air show aerobatics.
Finally in 1985, with a change of Administrator in the FAA, and only about a year left until his official retirement with the airlines, Clint recovered his First Class certificate. He went back to work at the airline, completed his career and retired on schedule.
In his retirement, Clint has continued to attack aerobatic flying with vigor. His commitment to personal excellence in performance is powerfully illustrated by the long list of titles and awards he has collected. Three times Clint won the International Aerobatic Championship at Fond du Lac in Unlimited. Eight times he earned a place on the U.S. Aerobatic Team, winning gold, silver and bronze medals in World Aerobatic Championship competitions. The first pilot to win all nine of IAC’s aerobatic achievement awards, Clint also received a number of special awards, some several times.
What was Clint’s most exciting aerobatic experience? He claims it the ’89 National Championships when he won the National Championship and a position on the ’90 U.S. Aerobatic Team by triumphing in four of the five flights. He flew the Extra 300, in which he had very little training time, (one contest), and competed against the largest field of contestants ever – 37 Unlimited entries. In fact, Clint had so little experience in the aircraft he could not evaluate his own performance from the cockpit and was continually surprised after each flight to find himself in first place.
After flying the World Championships in ’90 in Switzerland (in which he finished ninth)’ Clint decided to retire from aerobatic competition. While he misses the excitement of the contests, he doesn’t miss the rigors of training. He came to dread strapping into the plane for four hard flights a day. “If it’s not fun anymore, why do it? It’s fun to fly the contest, but you cannot be successful in the contests unless you’re exquisitely prepared.”
He has competed in various planes, like the Pitts, the Extra 230 and 300. Once he decided to fly airshows only, though, his aircraft of choice was the Soviet-made Sukhoi SU-26. “It’s the airplane that everybody wants to see and it’s the airplane that is the most exciting to watch flying that I’ve ever seen. Jet or otherwise, I’ve never seen a more exciting airplane than the Sukhoi.” By the end of the year, Clint will have performed before over 2,000,000 spectators in 20 airshows in 1991.
As if 65-year-old Clint isn’t busy enough with the air show performances, he still functions as the chief aerobatic flight instructor at Pompano Air Center (PAC), in Pompano Beach, Florida. It is without a doubt the most famous aerobatic flight training program in this country and its reputation is justly earned. One of its strengths is in its seasoned instructors like Clint who have done it all in world and national aerobatic competition, as well as air show performing.
Clint is adamant that all students have a thorough training in emergency spin recovery techniques. There is more to aerobatic flying than perfecting hammerheads. Clint and the other aerobatic instructors work with students of all skill levels. Students use state-of-the-art equipment.
Clint McHenry has come a long way since being a little boy building model airplanes and dreaming of flight. His persistent dedication to the dream lead him to the pinnacle of his profession. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Acro Personality of the Month
by Irene Rogers from Sport Aerobatics, 16 August, 1979
I attended a Flight Instructor Revalidation Clinic a few years ago in Van Nuys, CA (back in the good old days when they were still conducted by the FAA). Cliff Sheker happened to be lecturing at the time, and unfortunately I don’t remember anything about the lecture before or after he mentioned he had just come from conducting a clinic in Florida and Clint McHenry had been in attendance. “For those who haven’t heard of Clint McHenry, he’s the kind of aerobatic pilot that after watching him fly you want to tear up your ticket.”
Clint McHenry was born in Berewick, PA which is on the Susquehanna River just SW of Wilkes-Barre, PA but has always considered Waynesboro, VA as his home town. For as long as Clint remembers, he was interested in aviation. In fact, he started building model airplanes as a 6 year old. His mother was afraid to have him use the knives and razor blades because he was so young, so she would cut them out and Clint would glue them together and paint them. After moving to Waynesboro, VA, Clint was still an enthusiastic aircraft model builder and used to go down to the airport to fly his model airplanes with their 6 to 7 foot wing span. Of course, he got acquainted with the man who ran the airport who just happened to be Harold Faber, one of the early aviatiors in the State of Virginia. Clint kept bugging Harold until he gave him a job refueling aircraft. Clint received $5.00 a week and 2 hours of flying time from Harold in a J-3 Cub. Clint soloed the Cub the summer of ’42 just after his 16th birthday. Even then he remembers being interested in aerobatics and aerobatics is all he ever really wanted to do with an airplane.
During his sophomore year in high school, Clint and a friend got together and bought a J-2 Cub, a Taylor Cub built in 1937 at Bradford, PA with a 40 hp Continental engine, to continue to build flying time. Unfortunately, his partner had an accident and demolished the airplane. Clint was, however, a sort of “local boy aviator” in Waynesboro and had many friends with airplanes which were made available to him, so he was still able to build time fairly rapidly. It used to be you had to be 18 to get a Private license, and Clint had almost 400 hours by the time he turned 18.
World War II was in its early days, and Clint wanted to be an Army Air Corps fighter pilot. While waiting to turn 18, he had received a waiver on his age and was to be an instructor in Army Primary, flying Stearmans in South Carolina, but by this time the war had gone so well for us and we had so over-trained from the stand point of pilots that the cadet program closed. Clint had talked with TWA in Washington and they were ready to hire him, but he was still 17 and you had to be 21 to get on with the airlines. He tried the Ferry Command but they didn’t have any need for pilots either. He then tried the Navy and succeeded in getting a commission as a Navy pilot, but the Navy had an old regulation that your teeth had to meet properly or you couldn’t hold the oxygen tube in your mouth. Fortunately, a week before he was 18, the cadet program opened once again,. Clint went into the service as an aviation cadet and spent his entire military career as a cadet waiting to start training. He did continue to fly regularly by giving free dual wherever he was based and he gave a lot of aerobatic dual as he had a good deal more experienced than the other cadets. Clint had an opportunity to fly some very pleasant airplanes during this time i.e. Waco UPF-7’S, Ryan PT-22’s, PT-19’s, an old Howard DGA18K and Luscombes. When the war ended in Europe, Clint found himself discharged from the Army Air Corps at 19.
A good friend in Waynesboro had started a small airport and offered Clint a position managing the airport and being its only CFI. Clint still just had a Private license, so he immediately got to work on his Commercial and CFI, which he obtained in the next few months. Clint instructed and ran the airport in Waynesboro until he started college in the fall.
Clint attended the University of Virginia and majored in Economics, baseball and golf (not necessarily in that order) and, of course, continued to fly. He played baseball his first year in college and in the summer of ’47 was offered a chance to go to spring training with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Clint seriously debated about trying to become a major league ballplayer but decided to continue school instead. In the meantime, Clint became so interested in golf that he gave up baseball, and his last three years in college he was on the golf team. His senior year, he was No. 1 man on the golf team and won quite a few honors.
About the time he was completing college, the first country club was built in Waynesboro and Clint found himself the club’s first golf pro. Clint played golf every day, worked on his game and played in tournaments whenever the PGA tour was in the area. Golf then wasn’t what it is now, but even though there wasn’t much prize money ($2000-$3000 to the winner), competition was tough with such people as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, etc. Had golf been what it is today Clint probably would have pursued a golf career.
Clint was now a partner in three different airplanes, a J-3 Cub, a PT-26 and a UC-78, the famous bamboo bomber. Clint used this airplane for cross-country flying. He still had a lot of friends in college, and they would get a group together to go to football games. They would pay expenses, and Clint would get the flying time. He also made a lot of golfing trips. He would get a foursome together and have the pleasure not only of playing golf but flying as well. In addition, he managed a good deal of aerobatics in the PT-26 and a few local air shows.
Clint really didn’t consider airline flying until the early 50’s. By this time, he had all his ratings except his IFR and about 2500 hours. He heard the airlines had lowered their requirements and were hiring and got to thinking it might be a good life after all. He could do what he wanted most to do, fly, and continue to play golf. He was hired by EAL (Eastern Air Lines) at the end of ’51 and was trained as a co-pilot on the DC-3. He flew co-pilot on the DC-3, the Martin 404, and the DC-4. Clint considers himself very fortunate in only having to fly co-pilot for a little over 5 years before he was checked out as Captain on the Martin 404. When EAL purchased the Convair 440 he was checked out as Captain on the Convair and was dual qualified on both aircraft. In ’59, Clint checked out as Captain on the Constellation and flew the 749, 1049, 1049C, and 1049G. He was qualified on all these aircraft at the same time, and it wasn’t unusual to fly maybe all three aircraft in one month. In the early 60’s, Clint instructed in Convairs, Constellations and later in the Electra. By this time, Clint had been promoted to Check Pilot and was based in Washington. In 1967, he was assigned to Miami and started flying 727’s.
While in Washington, Clint became interested in aerobatics again and seriously considered buying a Stampe in France and bringing it back or a Ryan STA in partnership with another EAL pilot, but it wasn’t until he was based in Miami that he purchased an Aeronca Champ. The Champ led to the Citabria. With all the aerobatics Clint had flown, he had never flown an aircraft with an inverted fuel and oil system, so it was a real kick to be able to fly around upside down for an extended period of time. As soon as he bought the Citabria, Clint became very interested in trying to fly competition aerobatics. Clint had heard of Bill Thomas who had started competing in the Bucker Jungmeister. He telephoned Bill and told him he bought a Citabria and would like to get involved in competition aerobatics. Bill said they were just starting an IAC Chapter in Miami and why didn’t Clint come down. Clint became a charter member of IAC Chapter 37 and served as Chapter President in the early 70’s.
Clint’s first aerobatic contest was in February 1971 at LaBelle. There were 11 contestants and, with the exception of a couple of people i.e. Bill Thomas, Mary Gaffaney and Dan McGarry, no one had ever been in a contest before. Bob Schnuerle was Chief Judge and, as Clint recalls, “Bob had to actually tell us how to fly the maneuvers. We didn’t understand about the box, or the scoring.” Clint intended to fly in both the Sportsman and Intermediate categories even though the Intermediate category was a bit difficult to fly in a Citabria. It had a loop with a snap on the top, a hammerhead with a ¼ roll up and a ¼ roll down, and an octagonal loop. Clint finished 8th out of 11 in Sportsman and 3rd out of 4 in the Intermediate category. Dan McGarry saw Clint practicing the Intermediate sequence in his Citabria and asked Clint if he could rent the airplane to try to fly the Intermediate sequence in a Citabria. Clint said he couldn’t rent the airplane but could just take it and fly. Dan McGarry won in the Intermediate category. (This was the first of several times Clint loaned his airplane to a fellow competitor who ended up beating him in his own airplane). But Clint went home very enthusiastic about competition aerobatics. Deland, FL was the next contest and Clint won in both the Sportsman and Intermediate categories. At St. Augustine, Clint won again in both the Sportsman and Intermediate categories by a sizable margin.
Walter Clark, a friend and National pilot, had built a 150 hp flat wing Pitts and offered to let Clint fly the airplane. Clint’s first flight in this aircraft, also his first flight in a Pitts, he had a dead stick landing. He had taken off from Executive Airport in Ft. Lauderdale but had elected not to make the first landing in someone’s homebuilt on a hard surface, so he arranged that he would land at Antiquers Aerodrome just west of Delray Beach which had a 5,000 foot grass runway where Walt would meet him in Clint’s Citabria. Clint would do some aerobatics over the field and land. Walt had mentioned before Clint took off that he was having some mixture problems. When Clint was set up on the downwind leg and closed the throttle, the engine quit cold. “The prop stopped and there I was with someone else’s airplane that I knew little about and had to land dead stick.” However, there was so much runway that it turned out to be an uneventful landing. They later found it was a problem with the idle cut off plat in the carburetor. Clint even talked Walt Clark into flying some competition aerobatics and, later in the year, Walt let Clint fly the airplane in a contest in Atlanta. Clint flew in both the Sportsman and Intermediate categories. He blew the hammerhead, but won in the Intermediate category ad, of course, he came away feeling he had to have a Pitts.
After Clint watched Gene Soucy fly at the National as a spectator and found Gene Soucy’s flying the most exciting (Soucy somehow had a quality and style to his flying no one else had), Clint was determined to buy a Pitts, get deeply involved in aerobatics, and become a member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team. Clint talked to Earl Scott, one of the finest gentleman Clint has ever met (designer of the Scott tailwheel, numerous instruments, and Scott oxygen systems) to ask his advice. Mr. Scott not only encouraged Clint to buy a Pitts but, though no longer directly involved in Scott Aviation, told Clint he would be very happy to sponsor him in his endeavor. Mr. Scott liked and believed in Clint and said, “everything he had made in life he’d made from aviation, and he felt he wanted to put something back into aviation.”
Tom Fothergill, an EAL pilot, had built an all Pitts component airplane, and he mentioned to Clint in Ops one day he was considering selling his Pitts. It was a little more money than Clint intended on spending, but on a layover in Atlanta he called Tom. They went out to Bear Creek Airport and Tom wouldn’t have it but Clint fly the airplane. It was so much more airplane than Clint had ever flown that from the moment Clint flew the airplane he didn’t sleep a full night until he owned it. He bought 88TF on December 31, 1971 and immediately put in the full inverted fuel and oil system designed by Curtis Pitts.
Clint flew his first contest in 88TF at LaBelle in ’72 in the Advanced category. “I really wasn’t that familiar with the airplane, but I felt confident I would win. As it turned out Bill Lancaster won.” His next contest was to Vivian, LA and by now he not only felt comfortable in the airplane but had had a chance to practice quite a bit. He had the contest won until he pushed instead of pulled on a maneuver and zeroed it (sound familiar?). Next came Memphis and the biggest contest Clint had seen and where he won his first contest in the Advanced category. In June, Clint went to Burlington, WI. This was the contest the whole U.S. Aerobatic Team flew in just prior to leaving for the world competition in France. Clint was very impressed with all of the Unlimited flying and had an opportunity to make many of the friendships he still cherishes today, in addition to winning in the Advanced category. At the Bear Creek contest that year, Bob Carmichael had a problem with his airplane so Clint let Bob fly his Pitts. When Clint went the wrong way in a maneuver Bob beat him in his own airplane by ½ a point. This was Clint’s last contest in the Advanced category before moving up to Unlimited at Fond du Lac. The U.S. Team was in Europe so there were four contestants, Henry Haigh, Bob Davis, Casey Kay and Clint. Clint thought he was ready, and he was able to handle everything but the Unknown with no difficulty. Actually, he might have been able to handle the Unknown but the wind was blowing from 30-40 knots right toward the judges and, yes, Clint zeroed the flight by going over the deadline and ended up finishing last. After Fond du Lac, there was a small contest at Twin Lakes that he and Bob Davis entered. Bob Davis finished 1st and Clint 2nd. The ’72 Nationals was Clint’s first Nationals and the U.S. Team was there having just won the world championship in France. Clint finished 6th beating two of the team members which was very encouraging.
In 1973, Clint practiced regularly. He spent two to three days a week down at Curtis’s with Bill Thomas, Mary Gaffaney and Bob Schneurle while they critiqued one another. Clint feels Bob Schneurle probably helped him the most, as do many others. Clint’s first contest in ’73 was at Ft. Pierce which he won, beating both Bill Thomas and Mary Gaffaney (no small feat). The Lone Star Contest was next with the first 4 minute flights flown in the U.S. Clint flew a spectacular 4 minute flight and, when he landed, everyone came to the airplane to compliment him on the flight. (Even though he had flown 56 seconds overtime he still won the contest). In this contest, he once again loaned out his airplane and Robin King won in the Intermediate category. In May, Clint went to the Memphis contest and ended up zeroing his free flight, finishing 8th. At Fond du Lac, Clint zeroed an up snap roll but finished 4th out of 10 contestants. Wouldn’t it be nice to have so many points you can zero a maneuver and still finish 4th! In October, at the National the U.S. Team selected was to represent the U.S. on a good will tour of Red China. This was one of the most exciting contests Clint has ever flown. At the end of three flights, 26 points separated six contestants and Clint was in 4th place. It turned out, however, he went out of the box too many times on his 4 minute flight and finished 4th overall, but ahead of Gene Soucy which was a real thrill. Tom Poberezny was 1st, Bill Thomas 2nd, Art Scholl 3rd, Gene Soucy 5th, and Leo Loudenslager 6th. This was Clint’s first selection as a member of the U.S. Aerobatic team. Clint finished the year with a 2nd at Remuda Ranch.
In November of ’74, Clint decided to rebuild 88TF with the help of his good friend George Bost, a retired EAL Captain. Clint’s first contest that year was at Clarksdale and he started the year with a 1st in Unlimited followed by 3 more 1st’s in Unlimited at the Lone Star contest, Bear Creek and Fond du Lac. Fond du Lac was particularly satisfying for Clint as his protégé and protogee also won: Norm Nielson in the Advanced category and Paula Moore in the Intermediate category. At Shannon, the weather was so bad that year they only flew one flight and Henry Haigh beat Clint by 14 points. At the Nationals, Clint felt really good about winning but had an unbelievable 10 outs and finished 5th with another selection on the U.S. Aerobatic Team. He ended the year with a 1st in Unlimited at Rmuda Ranch. Lets see, that’s five 1sts, one 2nd and 5th at Nationals.
In ’75, Clint again started the year with a 1st in Unlimited at Ft. Pierce. At LaBelle, he finished 2nd in Unlimited. At Clarksdale, he finished 1st in Unlimited. In Atlanta, he zeroed a tailslide to finish 2nd while Ron Cadby flew 88TF to a 1st place in the Advanced category. At Fond du Lac, he went from 8th place at the end of his 1st flight to win the contest. Clint finished in 3rd place behind Leo Loudenslager and Henry Haigh at the ’75 Nationals to once again be selected as a member of the U.S. Aerobatic Team. Clint finished the year with a 1st place in Unlimited at River Ranch flying Curtis Pitts S1-T prototype. He finished 1st with no experience in the S1-T and made up his mind then and there he had to have one. Clint is indebted to Curtis Pitts not only for his encouragement over the years but for agreeing to build an S1-T in time for the World Aerobatic Competition in Russia.
Clint had a rather disappointing start in ’76 (everything’s relative) with his new S1-T finishing 5th at Springfield, TN and 3rd at Jackson, TN before leaving for Russia and world aerobatic competition. Russia to Clint was one of the most exciting things he’s ever done. He felt well prepared by contest time and felt he flew about as well as he’s capable of flying. What happened to the scores is another story. By the end of the first flight he was 37th which was more than he could ever make up even though on all the other flights he finished in the top 10 and 2nd among the U.S. pilots at Kiev. At the ’76 Nationals, Clint broke the crankshaft on his Pitts the day before the contest started and flew a borrowed airplane to a 3rd place finish again behind Leo Loudenslager and Henry Haigh for yet another selection to the U.S. Aerobatic Team. But in early ’77, Clint was grounded by EAL due to a physical problem. Clint continued to fly aerobatics after going through endless test and finding no problems. Per his usual, Clint started the year with a 1st in Unlimited at LaBelle. He finished 1st at River Ranch using the regular scoring system but after it was Bauerized he lost by 3 points. Clint placed 1st in Unlimited at Jackson, TN and again at Bear Creek. At Fond du Lac, he left out two whole lines in his free flight and finished 8th. Fond du Lac was to Clint’s last aerobatic contest for awhile as the FAA totally grounded him in September of ’77. Clint, however, has been instructing at EAL in the DC-9 simulator which not only keeps the money coming in but keeps him involved in aviation until he gets his medical back. (Ed. Note: After 5 years Clint got his 3rd class medical certificate back. In 1985, after a change of Administrators, Clint got his 1st Class medical certificate back and returned to airline and competition flying. Three times Clint was the U.S. National Champion in Unlimited. Eight times he earned a place on the U.S. Aerobatic Team, winning gold, silver and bronze medals in World Aerobatic Championship competitions. See previous article.)
Clint is very much a family man and this article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Marcia McHenry. Marcia and Clint met in New Orleans. Marcia was an EAL stewardess and they were introduced by Slim Thomas, Chief Pilot in New Orleans, who was a friend of Lindbergh’s and one of the real heroes in the airline business who had flown the mail in open cockpit airplanes. Marcia and Clint have four children: Karen, who is now Assistant Executive Director of the Oakland Education Association; Alex, who Clint taught to fly in the Citabria and at 22 has just checked out as Captain on C-46s for Air Hati; Jon, who Clint also taught to fly and who, along with their youngest daughter Leigh, attends the University of Florida. Marcia is not only an incredibly nice person in her own right but has always supported Clint 100% in all his endeavors.
In 1972, Clint became the first person to qualify for all IAC Achievement Awards. He had all the smooth patches but the Unlimited and, of course, had qualified for all the achievement awards with stars when Vern Jobst called to tell him he had a chance to the 1st person to get all the awards. So Clint called Bob Schnuerle and went down th Curtis’ to have Bob grade him for his Unlimited smooth award. Clint was also the first person to win in all 4 categories and to be a multiple winner in all 4 categories. Clint was awarded the L. Paul Soucy award for the highest performance average of any pilot in the U.S. for 1977. Not to be outdone, Clint’s first Pitts, 88TF, has won more contest than any other Pitts or any other airplane in the U.S. and perhaps the world. At Oshkosh in 1975, 88TF won the best Pitts award.
Clint has personally helped Norm Nnielsen, Paula Moore, Robin King, Ron Cadby, Tom Adams, Lou Shattuck, John Keplinger, Ed Potter, Norm Pesch, Herry Presson, John Reimer, Herb Marshall, Mike Green, Bob Sullivan, Paul Warsaw, Alex Ghods, Bill Requarth and Noel Summer to name just a few. And I shall always be grateful to Clint, not only for flying with me, but enabling me to qualify for my IAC Sportsman Achievement Award while on a trip to Florida from Hawaii.
Clint is both a National Judge and International Judge. A member of the IAC Board of Directors since 1976, he also served on the ACA (the Aerobatic Club of America, the precursor of the IAC) Board of Directors, was the Vice-President of ACA in 1977-78 and has been involved in the IAC/ACA merger study group. Clint was an alternate delegate to the CIVA (the international competition rules body) with Don Taylor in 1977 ad the Chief Delegate for the ’78 U.S. Aerobatic Team. Clint’s position with EAL precluded his actually going to Czechoslovakia and Germany. Clint felt he could do more good by coaching and critiquing the team so Clint spent two weeks with the team in Germany. Clint was voted Team Captain by the ’78 U.S. Aerobatic Team.
Clint was, of course, very proud of the ’78 U.S. Aerobatic Team. He is also happy that the world contest situation looks so good and feels a lot of credit belongs to the Bauer system for scoring, which makes it much more difficult to be prejudiced toward your team and against another team which in turn makes the sport of aerobatics much fairer. He only wishes they would have had the Bauer system in Russia! Clint has tentatively agreed to Judge at the Nationals, that is, IF he’s not back flying.
Clint has found the sport of aerobatics the most challenging thing he has ever been involved in and certainly the people involved in aerobatics are a great part of it. Oh yes, before I forget, the reason Clint first became interested in aerobatic flying It seems in 1938, Clint went to an air show that Clint decided that’s really what he wanted to do with an airplane more than anything else.
I would like to quote Bill Sandusky because Bill has put into words his feelings about Clint so much better than I ever could. “Clint is a gentlemen’s gentleman and a credit to the sport of aerobatics and everything else he undertakes. I have never ceased to be amazed at the crispness of his flying. I’ve noticed his eagerness to help the fledgling aerobat as well as his own competitors. He always helps to insure the success of the individual and ultimately the success of our sport. Clint is a great, great man and a tribute to the sport of aerobatics.”