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Jim O'Quinn

For those of us who knew and loved Jim, March 13, 1998 was a very sad day. He died suddenly and unexpectedly of heart failure, while sitting in his chair at home. His wife Edna was with him. We're all very thankful he wasn't in a glider or car. He is greatly missed by his friends and family.

I first met Jim in 1990 when I joined our club. We shared some common background, both being technicians, both learned to fly power planes in the 1950's at the same airport (Dahio), flew with the same instructor, Paul Hilt, who was also my friend and partner in a Stinson Voyager. Jim owned a Ryan PT-22. I remember his airplane but somehow never met him then.

He had that warm southern charm and friendly smile. He was always polite, always the gentleman, had a cheerful sense of humor. I never heard him say an unkind word, to, or about, anyone. When he greeted you, he smiled, called you by name, asked how you were. A man of good spirit.

He often chose to fly instructional flights when he could have flown his own ship instead. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. It gave him great pleasure to share his love of flying with you. If he could help you become a safe, able pilot, he was happy. He enjoyed basic, ridge, and, cross country instruction. He especially enjoyed cross country training. He would take you out on course, he in his ship, you in yours. Invaluable experience. If you were having any problems with your flying, he would go out of his way to help you overcome them.

He introduced me to ridge flying at Keystone Gliderport in Julian, Pennsylvania in April of 1991. He checked me out in the 2-22. It was exciting to say the least! We all need some excitement in our lives. Ridge flying will supply it! I've gone to the ridge most of the years since then. The spring trip in April helps jump start the soaring season. It's a delightful change of pace just when you need it. The scenery is spectacular. Going with friends, meeting other friends there. We liked it so much, we added a fall trip which helps you get thru the winter doldrums. When our wives weren't with us Jim and I shared a room. We talked a lot, mostly about flying. I really enjoyed his company. After flying we would go out to eat, often with our friends. Jim and Edna introduced us to Meyers Dairy in State College. I'm particularly fond of their heavenly hot fudge sundaes. It became a tradition for Jim and I to make at least one trip to Meyers on each trip. I've been known to stop there on my way out of town, and have one for the road.

I joined the 1-35 group in 1991. We took it to the ridge every year. What a neat glider, and such fun to fly. Jim helped me sort out the somewhat unusual landing characteristics, because of the flaps only landing devices. You feel like you're going to be a lawn dart' You tend to flare too high. He talked me down with a hand held radio. He kept saying ûnot yet, not yet, not yet.û I almost 'chickened out.'

He encouraged me to try contest flying. We flew our 1-35 as partners in several contests. We didn't win, but we had fun. On my first contest finish, I finished going the wrong direction. Always did have problems with direction. I think my firmware has a 'bug' in it. I also got too low. It's amazing how much quicker you descend when you're flying at over twice your normal speed.

We had great times with our 1-35 but began to think about a higher performance ship to fly in 15 Meter or Standard Class. Our partner Poul found a pristine ASW-20C in Elmira, NY. We went up to look at it, decided it was the ship for us, and bought it. Jim had wanted a 20 for a long time. What a glider! Marvelous to fly, lovely to look at, that long flat glide, those incredibly flexible shock absorbing wings that give such a wonderfully smooth ride. When they flex in the turbulence, it looks like they're flapping like a real bird! It is a real bird! Joy! We were all in love again! Jim told me he couldn't think of a glider that could possibly make him happier. He especially liked its ridge flying qualities. It's fast, it's strong, and those wonderful wings absorb a lot of the turbulence before it can get to the fuselage. He flew it in several contests. He and Poul flew it as partners at COSA. Mel and Jim's son Dave, with their busy schedules, didn't have as much opportunity to fly it. I mostly toured cross country with it. On my last trip to the ridge I caught the wave, and was able to get to ll,000 ft AGL, and above the clouds. Jim Hurst and others caught it too. Those clouds were beautiful, looked like you could get out and walk in them. Toward the plateau there was a solid layer of clouds, but downwind you could see successive wave windows lined up over the valleys. Spectacular! It was the most memorable and beautiful flight I've ever had. Sadly, Jim couldn't enjoy wave flying or higher altitude thermal flying because of a long standing ear problem, but he enjoyed listening to us talk about it.

Although I'm no longer a partner in XP, my former partners still let me look at it, help assemble it, caress it, whisper sweet nothings in its ear. It is alive you know! Have you hugged your glider lately?

I'm more interested in cross country touring than competition flying because I think my competition gene is missing. Jim's wasn't missing though! He was quite competitive. Touring didn't seem to interest him much, but recently he began to join some of us on our excursions. Several weeks before he died, I was rather surprised when he asked me if I would like to fly with him to Indianapolis (Terry). Do you suppose he wanted to see if a Cirrus could catch a 20? I was looking forward to trying. I had my land short-land out crew, Harolyn, on standby. She was looking forward to this adventure too.

Things are going to be different without Jim, but I'm thankful I had the opportunity to know him, and had his friendship.

– Don Burns

Posted: 6/1/1998

Final Glide 

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