DICK RIHN – A Tribute
By Mike Heuer, IAC Historian
Dr. Richard Rihn, one of IAC’s Presidents Emeritus and a leader in our sport for decades, passed away on June 8th, 2020 at the age of 95. Dick served as our club’s president from 1996 to 1998 and on the board of directors for several years. He also served a chair of the IAC’s International Aerobatics Hall of Fame committee and thus helped write the rules and pioneer one of IAC’s most important programs. (photo 1993 IAC Board of Directors. Dick is in the back row, second from the left.)
Though Dick was a physician by profession, his love of aviation was a lifelong experience. His beginnings in flying were unusual. Entering the U.S. Army in the summer of 1944 just after D-Day in France, he learned to fly in Clarksville, Tennessee at an airport near the Army base and soloed in a Meyers OTW. This was possible as flight training for the military was already winding down though the end of the war was not yet in sight. Basic aerobatics in the Meyers was part of the curriculum so this is where his love of aerobatics began as well.
World War II continued, however, for many months and Dick found himself in the 14th Armored Division, known as “The Liberators” since they had liberated so many POW camps in the march through Europe. All through the war, Dick carried his logbook with him, looking forward to returning to a peacetime America and resuming his flying. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the Battle of Hatten, France.
After the war, he resumed his medical education at Boston University and it was there he met his future wife, June Hall, who also became of fixture in California aerobatic circles decades later. After his schooling, they moved to northern California where Dick and June remained for the remainder of their lives. June gave birth to three children – two daughters and a son. Dan Rihn also caught a love of aviation from his family and is famous today for his design of several aerobatic aircraft including the “One Design” series.
Though very busy with his medical practice, Dick went on to earn Commercial, CFI, CFII, Multi-Engine, Seaplane, Commercial Glider, and Master Aerobatic Instructor licenses, ratings, and awards. It was in May of 1979 that he flew his first aerobatic competition flight in a Decathlon at an IAC contest in Mojave, California. He won the coveted “Grogan Belt” at that contest for last place in Sportsman but it did not deter him from perfecting his art. Eventually, he went on to purchase a Pitts S-2A and flew it for many years until purchasing a Pitts S-1T from the Pitts factory in Afton, Wyoming. He earned every IAC Achievement Award (both Smooth and with Stars) except Unlimited.
Another of Dick’s dreams was to build his own airplane and what could have been more fitting than one designed by his son. His DR-107 One Design first flew in November 1999 with Dick being 74 years old at the time. He flew Sportsman through Advanced in that airplane but had competed in Unlimited as well in his S-1T.
A pilot who deeply enjoyed instructing, he also went on to teach aerobatics at All Attitude Aviation in Livermore, California which had a wide variety of aerobatic airplanes including a Citabria, Decathlon, Grob 115C, Pitts S-2B and C, an SF-260, and Extra 200. He finally stopped flying in 2013 at the age of 88 with his last solo flight in his DR-107.