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Herman Stiglmeier 1915-2004

Herman Stiglmeier was a unique soaring character who did most of his soaring in the Southern California area. He was known and recognized, not only for his love of soaring, but also for his enthusiastic, cheerful, outgoing (perhaps outrageous) and friendly personality along with a general willingness and desire to help other soaring people.

He started life January 29, 1915, in Southern California along with a twin brother named Henry. Herman once wrote, “What motivates young people to life, exposure.” He and his brother had an early exposure to model airplanes at age ten – indoor, outdoor and power. In the ‘30s, he experimented with gliders – primary, secondary, shock cord launch and the other aspects of soaring at that time.

During the mid 1930’s, Herman and Henry were both draftsmen at Northrop Aircraft. By 1937, they designed a glider using a Grunau Baby wing. This glider taught them how to fly on March 8, 1940. Herman flew in the contests at Arvin, California, in 1940 and 1941. World War II arrived putting a stop to gliding activities and in 1942, the U.S. Army paid him $850 for his home built glider for use in the military glider program.

In 1942, Herman worked for Jack Laister in St. Louis building two-place gliders (Laister-Kaufman L-K 10A) and the Waco C.G. 4 cargo glider nose sections. He went to work for Douglas Aircraft in 1943.

After World War II, he became a glider collector. Surplus gliders and sailplanes were available for comparatively low cost. By 1946, he owned 23 surplus gliders. In 1947, he entered the contest in Wichita Falls, Texas, with a Pratt-Read two place and earned his Gold badge – Number 12 in the United States.

Anna Hutchinson recalls an incident when Herman set out with his brother Henry to set a duration record in a Pratt-Read along the Palos Verdes cliffs. Anna had gone to the take-off site early to help them and run their wing tip for the departure. After a long day, the press was there, people on their way home from work were watching. Suddenly Herman opened the canopy, stood up and bowed to the crowd. There were many cheers. Total time for the flight was 12 hours and 52 minutes.

Among the gliders Herman owned and flew were the TG-2, TG-3, Bowlus Baby Albatross, LK-10a, Pratt-Read LNE1, Salto and many others. A Pratt-Read owned at one time by Herman is currently being restored at Tehachapi. The sailplane was known as “Early Bird” and Herman had made a painting of a bird on the side.

Herman’s activities in the ‘50s and after were mostly involved with helping others fly. He had a “barn” in the Los Angeles area where sailplanes of the Southern California Soaring Association could be inspected as needed and repaired if required. He officiated at many competitions in the Southern California area. He crewed for Paul Bikle at the 1960 World Contest in Germany.

About this time, Herman made a trip back east to a contest in Elmira. His comment when he returned proved he was a true Westerner as he said, “It is so green, it hurts your eyes!” In spite of this comment, he must have enjoyed the green because in 1975 he moved to the garden isle of Kauai in Hawaii. There he established an alternate energy business – solar hot water.

He was not through with our wonderful sport, however. In 1996, he, along with Ted Bellak, gave the 24th Barnaby Lecture in Waikiki, Hawaii, on behalf of the National Soaring Museum. The topic was “Reminiscences on Soaring.” Knowing Herman, this must have been a rousing and enjoyable lecture.

He almost reached his 65th wedding anniversary which would have been August 11. Herman passed away peacefully on June 27, 2004, at his home in Kaloa, Kauai, after a pleasant week with family members. Children, grandchildren and great grandchildren attended his funeral on July 5. At his request, his ashes were scattered over the island near the beautiful site of Five Sisters Falls.

All who knew him as a very special and unique person – one of a kind, will remember Herman. Our condolences go to his family members and all his many friends who so much appreciate all he has done for us and our magnificent sport of soaring.

Posted: 10/1/2004

Final Glide 

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