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Meet Jerry

by John M. White |

All of us in aviation have stories to tell, history to recount, thoughts about the future of the avocation we all love. We can find articles about facts, figures and events in aviation, but what breathes life into aviation are the people who live it every day. Yesterday I spent most of my day with two gentlemen and had the chance to relive some of the past with them. Whether it was our friend who took us for that first flight and hooked us on flying airplanes, or simply hanging out at the local airport watching a student doing "crash and dashes", airplanes and flying draw us to want to be around those who share our love of flying.
Let me introduce you to Jerry, the first of them. In another post I will talk about Harry, whom my wife and I had dinner with last night. Jerry is Jerry Hollenbeck, a friend and business colleague for many, many years. Jerry is from mid-Michigan, and at a young age decided that he wanted to fly airplanes for a living. So, off he went to Spartan School of Aeronautics to get all of his pilot licenses and ratings. Fresh out of Spartan he took a job as a co-pilot on twin Beech airplanes out of Rochester, NY, flying mail and some scheduled passenger runs around New York state. As he accumulated more experience he moved to Wisconsin where he continued as the Chief Flight Instructor for a VA flight school, continuing to gain flight experience and learning more about how to run a proper fixed base operation. Next he moved back home to Alma, MI, where he went to work for Don Hansen, the owner of Hansen Flying Service. This is where Jerry and I first met. When Don Hansen retired Jerry took over Hansen Flying Service, and along with his lovely wife Melba, ran Hansen Flying Service, becoming one of the largest FBOs in Michigan. At the peak of this business they had 25 employees - 5 A&P mechanics, 15 pilots and 5 office staff! Operating Piper Aztecs and Piper Navajos, Hansen Flying Service provided air transportation to clients throughout the lower peninsula of Michigan for many years. Over the years Hansen Flying Service evolved into a different kind of operation, eventually moving through Piper Cheyenne aircraft to Cessna Citations, managing aircraft for some mid-Michigan auto suppliers. Each step along the way Jerry and Melba managed to eke out a small profit (after salaries) most years, but when Melba passed away the heart of the business died and the operation was sold to Northern Jet in Grand Rapids, MI. After that Jerry did some pilot service work, eventually winding up as Chief Pilot for Patrick Petroleum flying a 1984 Mistubishi Diamond jet, the forerunner of the Beechjet 400A. After 10 years of flying this airplane it is now up for sale, and with the sale of this aircraft it will probably be the conclusion of a long, accident free and excellent flying career for Jerry. We went to Jackson, MI yesterday, where the Diamond is based, charged up the batteries, pushed the airplane out of the hangar, ran the engines and made sure everything worked, then put the aircraft away, turned out the lights and left the hangar. As we chatted about the past, recalling friends and events, a certain sadness came over us as we both recognized the end of an era. No longer do we find vibrant little FBOs at small airports around the state, and as the economy in Michigan continues to deteriorate under a state and federal government that seems to not understand how to fix our economy, more and more aviation flight departments are shuttered and closed. Please share your thoughts about the state of aviation wherever you live by leaving a comment. Oh, and would the last pilot leaving Michigan turn out the lights, please? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 This Eagle Ode to a P&W R985 his proud bird saved my life, It came through in a time of strife. Number two flamed when we were heavy, Flaps up, gear up, max power baby! Wise and still coming down... The pacific waited....we�re gonna drown. the left engine held with all it had, I think it was worried. No! I think it was mad! It didn't want to end in shame, couldn't stand to be called "the blame". It gave it's life to get us back, all those long minutes it wouldn't crack. This short ode is just one litany, that God blessed me with a Pratt and Whitney.

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