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In Memory of Hans Tormolen

The soaring community has lost a dear comrade to a battle with cancer. Hans Tormolen of Irving, Texas, has died at the age of 86. I hope that these words can truly project Hans’ character and how he lived for flying.

Hans’ childhood and military flying shaped his personality into nothing less than an iconoclast, ready to challenge his students at a moments notice. Perfection was the order for the day and Hans was adamant in that complete enlightenment could only be formed through discipline and correct judgment. His tool to achieve this was the glider. This and his true love for flying culminated into years of dedicated service to the Texas Soaring Association as a flight instructor, tow-pilot and good friend.

Hans’ maverick spirit was very evident in Germany at the age of 13 when he soloed on his first glider flight in a Primary and was immediately grounded for flying with his arms stretched out like a bird, with the control stick locked between his knees. He refused to take no for an answer and remained an active glider pilot through his 84th birthday! He never lost that spirit. Hans and I started flying together over 8 years ago and we were caught more than once pushing the tow plane through mud, trying to find the most suitable place to launch after a soaking rain. Flying was paramount.

Upon his retirement from flight instruction, we continued to fly. Not just to share the expense, we shared hours and hours of flying by the seat of our pants, defying the odds on poor soaring days and completing almost every flight with a drive to town to discuss politics over ice-cream. I would guess that I have over two-hundred hours flying with Hans but as I examined my log book to find out, I was distracted by counting the hours I have with his dog Shadow. Close to 40!

If there is one moment that would best describe how much Hans loved to fly, it would be the day when I was cruising straight and level on a hot, booming Texas summer day in TSA’s Schweizer 2-33. The silence in the cockpit was deafening. As I twisted my body around within the front seat to see what was wrong, there was Hans and Shadow gazing in absolute wonder and content at our beautiful Earth below. I untwisted myself and continued to fly straight and level. I simply didn’t have the heart to break the silence.

Hans, if you can now read my mind, I want you to know that it has been both and honor and a privilege to fly with you.

– by Bryan Cepak
Grand Prairie, Texas

Posted: 5/1/1999


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