Hall of Fame 1990 Charlie Hillard

1990 Charlie Hillard

Included here are four articles on Charlie Hillard. The first is by David Gustafson, Sport Aerobatics, from 8 February, 1991, about the night Charlie Hillard was inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame for the year 1990. The second is the announcement, also from Sport Aerobatics, of Charlie becoming the 1972 World Aerobatic Champion, the first ever from America. The third is by Dr. Richard Rihn, in Sport Aerobatics from 28 August, 1996, about Charlie’s life and about the accident, due to mechanical failure, that took his life. The fourth is from the News Briefs section of Sport Aerobatics, from 8 June, 1996, announcing Charlie’s death and about his life.


Hall of Fame’90

David Gustafson, Sport Aerobatics, from 8 February, 1991

On December 1 IAC President Steve Morris presided over the induction ceremonies for the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame. Everything went smoothly and the setting (The Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas) seemed ideal for the ceremonies.

For 1990, the program was shifted from a stand-alone event at the EAA Aviation Museum to being part of the annual convention of the International Council of Airshows (ICAS). Since Lincoln Beachey, Bob Herndeen, Charlie Hillard and Art Scholl have all been active in the airshow industry, everyone present could relate to the people who were honored and the response was enthusiastic.

This year, for the first time, the inductee’s names were kept secret up to the last minute. Bob Herendeen and his wife were there, Charlie Hillard and his wife were present and Judy Scholl was at the banquet to present the annual Art Scholl Award. The element of surprise was undoubtedly a factor in the emotional response of Bob, Charlie and Judy. In Bob’s and Charlie’s cases, the wives were let in on the secret to assure attendance. We knew Judy Scholl would be there to present the annual Art Scholl Award.

Since some of the ICAS members didn’t even know there is an Aerobatic Hall of Fame, Steve explained that the Hall is housed in the EAA Aviation Museum…anyone can nominate someone who has made a significant contribution to the field of aerobatics.

Herendeen, Hillard and Scholl received standing ovations when their names were called and the applause was long, warm and enthusiastic.

Here’s what Steve said about each of the four men who were honored and added to the International Aereobatics Hall of Fame:


Charlie Hillard

Charlie Hillard contributed to the field of aerobatics as a competition and airshow pilot, as an administrator, test pilot, and as a participant in motion pictures and television. Active in the US National Championships from 1964 to 1972, he won the title of National Champion in 1967. Charlie represented the United States as a member of the US Aerobatic Team in four World Aerobatic Championships: USSR in 1966, East Germany in 1968, England in 1970, and France in 1972. In 1973, he became the first American to win the Aresti Cup and title of World Aerobatic Champion. He was a founding organizer of the Aerobatic Club of America (ACA). While judging a number of National Championships, Charlie was also recognized as an International Judge and served on the International Jury at the 1980 World Aerobatic Championships. Besides serving as an alternate and delegate to FAI’s International Aerobatics Commission (CIVA) for 12 years, he was on the Board of Directors for the United States Aerobatic Foundation and was one of the organizers and first officers of the International Council of Airshows (ICAS). He became lead pilot of the longest continuous performing airshow team in the world, The Eagles.

US Team Retains World Title

Charlie Hillard wins the 1972-1973 Men’s World Aerobatic Title

Mary Gaffaney wins the 1972-1973 Woman’s World Aerobatic Title


Sport Aerobatics, 1972

Charlie Hillard of Fort Worth, Texas won the 1972-1973 Men’s World Aerobatic Title with a strong finish in his 200 hp Pitts Special.

Staying close to leader Gene Soucy through the first two flights, Charlie forged into the lead after the third flight by a scant .7 of a point over Gene. Charlie widened his lead in the fourth flight and brought the Men’s Title to the United States for the first time in the history of the World Aerobatic Championships.

This was Charlie’s fourth world meet, having competed in Moscow, Russia, Magdeburg, East Germany, and Hullavington, England previously. This tremendous wealth of experience paid off.

Charlie, who has been well known in the aerobatic field for many years, is the current President of the Aerobatic Club of America.

The International Aerobatic Club sends a hearty and well-deserved congratulations to Charlie.



International Aerobatics Hall of Fame

Charlie Hillard

Dr. Richard Rihn, Sport Aerobatics, from 28 August, 1996

In 1958 Charlie Hillard was a member of the US Skydiving team that competed in the Coup de Monde at the Paris Airshow. He finished 2nd which was the highest ever placement by an American. He completed the first and second successful baton passes performed in the United States and with a number of other jumpers, started “relative work” in free fall parachute jumping. It would be impossible to list all of the many achievements of this remarkable individual without overlooking one, for Charlie Hillard was a giant among incredibly talented and productive people. Listed among his mentors and associates are names such as Bevo Howard, Frank Price, Harold Krier and Bill Adams.

Charlie Hillard’s leadership and influence in the aviation world was of lasting importance to many an organization. He was an original organizer of the Aerobatic Club of America in 1964 and served as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President and member of the Board of Directors of that organization. In 1964 he helped organize the first sanctioned national Aerobatic Championship held in Reno. This was the beginning of aerobatic competition as we know it today. For twelve years he served as an alternate and then delegate to the FAI CIVA Committee, the governing organization for aerobatics throughout the world. Later he was one of the organizers of the International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) and served as Vice President and Board member. He wrote the Aerobatic Competency Evaluation manual (ACE) that the FAA currently uses for issuing low altitude waivers. Charlie was one of the key individuals responsible for the International Aerobatic Club in 1982 becoming the official sanctioning body of aerobatics for the National Aeronautics Association. He was instrumental in conducting the US National Championships at the Oak Grove Airport in Texas and then later moving the site to Sherman/Denison, Texas. Hillard was a member of the Advisory Committee for the fund raising for the EAA Air Adventure Museum and was contributory in creating the International Aerobatics Hall of Fame, serving as one of its first selectors. After several years, the other selectors finally persuaded Charlie to take a leave of absence long enough to allow them to bestow this honor upon this man who was so deserving.

Competition Flying

Charlie Hillard was a successful competitive aerobatic pilot. He competed in the National Aerobatic Championships from 1964 – 1972, never finishing lower than 5th place and winning the US National Aerobatic Championship in 1967. As a member of the United States Aerobatic Team, Charlie competed in four World Championships: Russia, 1966, East Germany, 1968, England, 1970 and France in 1972. In 1968 Charlie won the first medal ever won by an American in a World Championship – a bronze medal for third place. In England in 1970 he won a gold and three bronze medals, helping the US Team win the Nesterov trophy. 1972 was a climactic year for Charlie when he won three gold and one bronze medal in France and became the World Aerobatic Champion, leading the US Team to bringing home the Nesterov once again. It was at that contest that he introduced the torque roll to international judges and aerobatics.

One unique historical fact is that in the four World Aerobatic Championships Charlie participated in, he used a different aircraft each time – The Krier Kraft, Chipmunk, Spinks Akromaster and the Pitts special. He designed and built the Spinks Akromaster that was the forerunner of the high performance monoplane aerobatic aircraft so popular today. He also served as chief test pilot and project engineer for Spinks aircraft industries from 1967 until 1970. In 1970 he flew the Spinks Acromaster to third place overall at the World Championships.

Hillard was also active as a judge, having judged several National Championships. He was also rated as an International Judge and served on the International Jury for the 1980 World Aerobatic Championships.

Aviation Film-making

Charlie served in many capacities in the aviation film industry, including roles as a pilot, aviation director, color commentator, camera-man and stunt coordinator for over thirty-five television and movie productions. Some of his TV credits include CBS Sports Spectacular, ABC Wide World of Sports, To Tell the Truth, Mike Douglas Show, Charlie Rose Show, CBS Sports-World Aerobatics, That’s Incredible, PM Magazine, Chips, NBC Sports World, HBO-Oshkosh Special, Hilton Masters, ESPN 1984 and 1986, and Airwolf.

Documentaries included We Came to Win, Olympics of the Air, Wing Walking in America, Aerobatic Super-Stars, National Geographic World and others. Movies which benefited from Charlie’s expertise include Cloud Dancer, Skyward, The Over/Under, A Christmas Skyward and Pancho Barnes.

Charlie Hillard the Airshow Pilot

Charlie Hillard was a consummate airshow pilot and received the coveted Wilkinson Sword Award bestowed by the International Council of Airshows. Charlie was the team leader of the last group to fly the three Pitts Specials’ formation team, the Red Devils. His wingmen were Gene Soucy and Tom Poberezny. Later the three switched mounts to the large engine Christen Eagle, becoming the Eagle Aerobatic Team. With Charlie still as the lead pilot, in 1995 this remarkable team flew its twenty-fifth airshow season and then retired. In April 1996 Charlie flew a solo airshow act in his newly restored Sea Fury with three magnificent smoke trails that left huge smoke rings dotted over the sky. As always, his flawless precision was breathtaking to watch. It was therefore a devastating shock to witness his death due to a simple mechanical failure during the slow speed portion of his final landing roll.


News Briefs

Industry – People – Places – Whats New

Former World Aerobatic Champion Charlie Hillard Dies in Airshow Incident

Sport Aerobatics, 8 June, 1996

Charlie Hillard, noted airshow pilot and former US National and World Aerobatic Champion, died on April 16 when his recently restored Sea Fury flipped over on rollout after a magnificent airshow performance at the Sun-N-Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida.

Hillard, whose skills as an airshow pilot have been witnessed by literally millions of people, had flown with Gene Soucy and EAA President Tom Poberezny for 25 seasons, first as the Red Devils in the Pitts airplanes, then later as the lead pilot of the famous Eagles Aerobatic Team. “One day, not too long ago, we figured out that we had been together about 2800 days,” said Pobereezny the day after the accident. “We flew together about 4000-5000 hours.” Hillard was Poberezny’s closest friend. The Eagles team performed their last show in Daytona, Florida in November, 1995. The three men had performed more than 1000 accident free performances together.

On the competition scene, Charlie was a top competitor for many years. He competed in the US Nationals from 1964 until 1972 and never finished below fifth place. In 1967, he captured the National title at the last Nationals held in Reno, Nevada. His first World Championship was in 1966 in the USSR where he placed 29th flying his Krier Kraft. The year 1968 found him in East Germany competing in a borrowed Super Chipmunk, necessitated by lack of team funding, and in that contest he placed 26th. In 1970, Charlie came into his own flying the new Spinks Akromaster and placed 3rd, bringing home a bronze medal for the United States. Determined to win the World Championships, Charlie purchased a Pitts S-1S from Bob Heuer and in 1972 in Salon de Provence, France, he won the title of World Aerobatic Champion, bringing home the Aresti Cup for the first time in American aerobatic history. It was in that Pitts (442X) that he also began his career as lead pilot in the Red devils Aerobatic Team. The aircraft is now featured in the atrium of the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin USA.

Hillard was one of the original organizers of the Aerobatic Club of America in 1964. Later he became the ACA’s Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-President, then President. Following that, he became the United States’ alternate delegate and later delegate to the FAI International Aerobatics Commission (CIVA) and served on the International Jury at the last WAC held in the United States in 1980. Despite his early work for ACA, Hillard recognized that IAC was to become the principal force in aerobatics in the United States, and was contributory to gaining full sanctioning rights for the IAC from the National Aeronautic Association.

Hillard had acquired the 1948 Hawker Sea Fury two years ago. The post WWII Royal Navy carrier plane was then rebuilt and restored, including replacement of the original 2,400 horsepower sleeve-valve engine with an American Wright R-3350 which boosted the horsepower to 2600. Modifications were made to enhance the airplane’s aerobatic capabilities and, upon its completion in late 1995, was christened the “Lone Star Fury”, having been painted in the scheme of the state flag of Texas – Hillard’s home state.

“He did it so well – he was so steady. He knew what he could do, and he did it. That’s why he became the World Aerobatic Champion. His credentials were impeccable and his 30 years of longevity are the mark of professionalism,” said Poberezny.

Hillard resided in Fort Worth, Texas where he owned Hillard Auto Park, a Ford, Suzuki, Mazda, Lexus, and Buick automobile dealership. Hillard is survived by his wife, Doreen and his four children, and many friends in the competitive aerobatics and airshow community.