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David R. Hughes

David R. Hughes was killed on November 30, 1996 in a tragic accident along with two other pilots, while riding in the rear seat of a Paris MS760 jet in Irvine, California. As with every project he undertook, David put himself completely into flying. He began flying in 1976, and received his private pilot certificate in 1979. Over the next 20 years, he would log over 5000 hours of flight time in a variety of aircraft. He held a commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating as well as a certificate for flight instructor gliders. He was a mission pilot for the USAF Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol, 41st Los Alamitos Glider and Balloon Squadron. At the time of his death, he was the Squadron Commander.

David was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Flag Day, June 14, 1939. He attended college at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where he studied engineering technology and served in the ROTC. After marrying Lynn Hughes in 1960, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. and entered the U.S. Air Force in Logistics and Special Operations, where he served 13 years as a combat control team leader, setting up and conducting air traffic control operations where there were no towers or facilities.

During his time with Special Operations, whose slogan is "first in, last out," he learned to parachute and completed over 1,000 jumps. David would go on to write the "Combat Control Team Manual," and headed up the Combat Control School at Stewart AFB in Tennessee. Although he retired from the Air Force in 1984, he was responsible for training many of the soldiers who set up and conducted ATC operations during the Gulf War. After leaving Special Operations, Hughes went on to serve as a Transportation Squadron Commander, and Civil Engineering Squadron Commander, Deputy Base Commander at Holloman AFB in New Mexico, and Base Commander at Howard AFB in the Republic of Panama. His final assignment was at George AFB in Victorville, California, where his troops earned the first "outstanding" rating ever given by the Tactical Air Command during an operational readiness inspection on mobility.

It was at this time that he joined the Antelope Valley Soaring Club, where he was very active as a tow pilot and chief check pilot. He earned his Diamond Badge in the Club Cirrus. Throughout his service with the Air Force, David continued to pursue educational opportunities. He attended Squadron Officer's Training School, the Command and Staff College, the U.S. Army War College, and the Air University in Dayton, Ohio. He was a distinguished graduate of both the Command Staff College and the Air University. When he was in his early 30's, he also undertook partial Navy Seal training, which he considered one of his most difficult accomplishments. After retiring from the Air Force in 1984, David went to work for Perkin & Elmer at their applied optics division in Garden Grove, CA. (the company was purchased by Optical Corporation of America in 1990). He started out as a senior program manager, and worked his way up to director of program management by the time he took early retirement in 1995. During his time at the company, his projects included repair of the Hubbell space telescope as well as work in the Mars observer camera. David next went to work for K & K Aircraft, which conducts spraying operations as part of the Southern California Medfly project. A commercial pilot, he flew the company's twin turbine engine Beech 18s.

As with his dedication to writing, David was always striving to become the safest, most professional pilot he could be.

"He liked to listen to and learn from others," Lynn Hughes, his wife, explains. "His writing came from wanting to learn things. He was learning about different aspects of flying, and he thought he would get more pleasure from his recreation if he wrote his pleasant experiences down."

David also enjoyed sharing the knowledge he had, especially with young people. His efficient, effective techniques were well recognized throughout his military, private sector, and writing careers. They were also recognized by his family, especially his son, Steven Rolland Hughes, who enjoyed go-cart racing with his father. Steven would later go on to become a structural engineer with Caltrans.

"He knew it was important to take the needs of his family into consideration," Lynn Hughes says. "He traveled with me and took me to the theater regularly. He also enjoyed playing with David Michael, his five-year-old grandson."

David submitted articles to a variety of aviation magazines, including "Private Pilot, In Flight USA" and "Atlantic Flyer". He also wrote a book, "The History and Development of the M-16 Rifle and Its Cartridge," which is highly recognized and owned by cartridge collectors, larger police departments, and even the Rand Corporation.

"It's a reference book, but people say it is as easy to read as a novel," Lynn Hughes says. It was this ability to capture, and then hold, the reader's attention which made David such a valuable freelance writer. Instead of getting bogged down in technical jargon when writing a pilot report, David found ways to make them entertaining and insightful. It was a very rare and valuable gift. There is no doubt that the Soaring Society will suffer from his loss, but society as a whole may suffer more. He was intelligent, witty, generous and, above all else, kind. The Hughes family has lived in Cypress, California for almost 13 years. He leaves behind his wife Lynn, his son Steven, his grandson David Michael, and many friends who will always remember him and miss him very much.

- Ronald R. Hodge

Posted: 5/1/1997

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