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Aviation, EAA and Vintage Aircraft Lose an Icon in the Passing of Buck Hilbert

By Charles W. Harris, Director Emeritus, Vintage Aircraft Association

August 10, 2016 - EAA was saddened to hear of the death of Elroy “Buck” Hilbert of Union, Illinois, on Wednesday, August 3. He was 91 years of age.

Buck has gone west after a lifetime of being deeply immersed in aviation from his earliest days as a lineboy at the old Chicago Elmhurst Airport where he soloed an Aeronca LA Chief at 16, which was quickly followed by a thrilling solo in Jack Rose’s tiny 40-hp open cockpit Parrakeet biplane. Following his military aviation career during World War II and Korea, Buck joined United Airlines in 1952 and flew a full airline career in DC-3s, Convairs, Viscounts, DC-6s, DC-7s, 707s, 727s, and concluded his United cockpit career in DC-8s; he retired from United in 1989.

When EAA Founder Paul Poberezny began to form the EAA Antique/Classic Division, now the Vintage Aircraft Association, in 1971, he invited Buck, EAA Lifetime 21, Vintage Lifetime 5, Warbirds 2928, and IAC 8262, to be the first president, Buck accepted, and the rest is history. Buck was exactly the right man, at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time. Today the Vintage Aircraft Association is the finest, largest, and most successful vintage airplane association in the world.

Vintage Airplane will cover Buck’s life in more depth in the November/December 2016 issue as we were unable to do so prior to the Vintage Airplane September/October publication deadline.

EAA and the Vintage Aircraft Association extend heartfelt condolences to the Hilbert family and to Buck’s countless aviation friends and associates. If you have a memory of Buck you’d like to share with us, please send a note to editorial@eaa.org.

A memorial service for Buck will take place Saturday, October 1, 2016, at 1 p.m., at the Poplar Grove Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum (C77), with light refreshments served afterwards concluding with a sunset tribute flight. The address for the museum is 5151 Orth Rd, Poplar Grove, Illinois.

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