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Howard Blossom

Soaring lost one of its very early pioneers when Howard Blossom died December 5, 1997 at the age of 88. He was a long time and very good friend and a former employee of mine. I first met Howard when he invited me to a meeting at his home in Ladue, MO in the winter of 1940-41. Howard wanted to organize the St. Louis Soaring Association and this would be its first meeting. He went forward from that day putting on exciting demonstrations with his Wolfe sailplane to attract newcomers and purchasing a new Frankfort two-place trainer with which he was giving flight training to the members of this new association. This glider was a predecessor to Stan Corcoran's Military TG-1 of WWII.

In the late 20's Howard attended Cal. Tech. in Pasadena, CA. There he met John Pierce, another student who had constructed a two-place PRIMARY training glider. It is my understanding that Howard's first flight was in that primary on the then open slopes around the Palos Verde hills south of Los Angeles.

Throughout the thirties he vacationed on Cape Cod and soon became a graduate student of Parker Leonard's flying the various gliders of that era on the sand dunes of the Cape, including a primary glider on floats.

When WWII came along and I formed the L-K Aircraft Corporation in St. Louis, I asked Howard to become our Chief Glider Pilot and Chief of Quality Control. I have always felt that his integrity and tenacity saved L-K from many very potentially dangerous situations. A clear example was with the CO-4A wing strut fitting that failed during an air show at Lambert Field in 1943. All fifteen VIP's aboard were killed including the Mayor of St. Louis. The inferior fitting that failed was made by the same machine shop that produced that fitting for L-K. Our records reflected that we had rejected about 25% of the fittings furnished. Robertson had relied on the Government source inspection procedure and had not rejected any of the fittings. Howard had recognized at the outset that it would be difficult to inspect the critical wall thickness of this fitting and had designed a special tool to check it. He didn't bring you problems. He brought you solutions.

He loved to tell funny stories that were based on some fact. One of his favorites concerned the event of installing a new lathe in the L-K Plant. Howard had impressed those concerned of the importance of setting the ways or bed level. Production Manager, John Novak, was impatient and the installation didn't pass the first one or two inspections. Finally with some help from Howard, the installation was okay. Now the Maintenance Chief, a retired blacksmith in charge of the installation, said to Howard "You know the Navy has very good machine shops aboard their big ships. Tell me how do they keep those lathes level."

Howard was a member of the Soaring Hall Of Fame. His name is prominently displayed on the Memorial located in the St. Louis International Air Terminal, to those who developed the big Trojan Horse glider. A few years ago the St. Louis Soaring Association was about to lose the use of the airport that had been their base of operations for many years. It was to be sold for a housing development. Howard bought the airport and it is now the property of the St. Louis Soaring Association. A large bronze plaque dedicated to Howard is on one of the buildings there.

So long Howard. You will be missed dearly by all who knew you.

submitted by Jack Laister
1-5-98 

Posted: 2/1/1998


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