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Robert J. Nichols - 1924-2000
Robert J. Nichols, Bob to all his friends, died September 13 at the age of 76. He was a glider guy, an airplane man and he had flown since a kid in his teens. He flew observation aircraft in the US Army in France in '45.
Bob lived in Wichita in the 50's where he learned about soaring from Harlan Ross. He worked with Harlan when the R-6, the two-place, all-metal derivative of the RJ-5 was built and flown. Another Nichols-Ross project was the restoration of a surplus Schweizer TG-3 in which Bob taught many the secrets of finding and working those wild Kansas thermals.
Elton Rowley was a Boeing engineer who designed and built a distant cousin of Hawley Bowlus' Baby Albatross. As a reward for test-flying this machine, Elton gave it to Bob who flew it at Winfield along with the TG-3 starting the post-WWII resurgence of soaring in Kansas.
In those days airplane men who recognized Bob's talents ran Boeing. He had a great career doing a hundred important different things. He had a reputation for generally knowing how to design, build, fly, modify, flight test and repair airplanes.
When he retired he continued doing all these things only this time for
himself in his "Hangar One" at Crest Airpark. This operation has had the appearance of a museum with sailplanes, his Vivat (the powered version of the Blanik) mixed in with a Cessna Cardinal, his restored Piper Cub, his Curtis L-5 in the process of being restored and the occasional odd-ball contraption such as his two-place autogiro glider.
Bob has done a beautiful job of restoring his L-5 into the appearance of its 1945 configuration; even going to the extent of camouflaging modern electronics inside WWII boxes. The airplane is essentially complete and only a few weeks short of its first flight. Too bad Bob will miss this event.
But a lot of his friends will miss him too.
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