1987 Hall of Fame Duane Cole


Aerobatics Hall of Fame Biographies

An Address by Tom Poberezny

President EAA Aviation Foundation


Duane Cole


Duane Cole is a living institution in this country. He has probably flown more aerobatic maneuvers than anyone else in the world, instructed more students in the art of aerobatics and performed for more airshow audiences than anyone else. We’d be here all night if we tried to review all of the activities that Duane has undertaken in his aviation career. We can barely touch on the highlights here. This is a man whose shadow has fallen on the ramps of thousands of airports around the world, whose seatbelt has clicked beside, behind, or in front of thousands of students who wanted to learn to fly, or to fly better, or to fly aerobatics.


Duane has given aerobatic instruction in all 48 of the contiguous United States. He has logged over 10,000 hours of aerobatic dual. He’s written seven books on aviation and two of them – ROLL AROUND A POINT, published in 1965, and CONQUEST OF LINES AND SYMMETRY, which came out in 1970, have been read by tens of thousands of aerobatic enthusiasts.


Born in 1914, Duane earned his license in the early 1930’s and flew his first public airshow in 1940. That same year he began teaching aerobatics for the government’s Civilian Pilot Training Program. Two years later he changed employers, going over to work with the Royal Air Force where he taught aerobatics in Stearmans.


After the war, Duane and his three brothers, Marion, Lester, and Arnold, started the Cle Brothers Air Show which ran for 17 years. In 1958 he started this country’s first formal aerobatics training school in Kewanee, Illinois, and continued his involvement in aerobatic competitions which were still pretty rare back in those days. Duane, like the other men we are honoring tonight, was a pioneer in developing training procedures, arranging and running competitions, and struggling with the government to protect the right to fly aerobatics in this country.


In 1961, he invented the groin strap for aerobatic airplanes which is now universally used in competition and airshow flying. The following year he became the United States Aerobatic Champion and flew with the three-man U.S. Aerobatic Team that year in Budapest, Hungary. The Americans took fourth place in 1962 in the team competition.


Duane won the title of National Champion again in 1964 when he put together the National Aerobatics Championships as part of the Reno Air Races, which he was also in charge of. In addition to aerobatics and straight flight training, Duane also took an active role in organizing and running a number of significant air races in the 1960’s.


For two years, he served as an associate editor of FLYING magazine, and he has created two excellent video tapes – one on VFR tips for all pilots, the other on aerobatics. He holds EAA membership number eight, Aerobatic Club of America membership number nine, and is member number seventeen in the International Aerobatic Club. Duane became the first person elected to the Illinois Aviation Honor Roll in 1983 and in 1986 he received the Alaskan Airmans Award. He has been honored a number of times by EAA and IAC for his work in general aviation and aerobatics. He’s also been a participant in our International EAA Fly – In for virtually every summer since the year one.


The field of sport aerobatics has truly been enriched by the outstanding, generous, and abundant contributions of Duane Cole.