Aviation creates legends, and it is always great to read about one. The following story is about one. Read and enjoy!
Legend' behind MacDill AirFests dies Richard "Dick" Cutshall died of cancer on Christmas Day. Related By HOWARD ALTMAN | The Tampa Tribune Published: December 28, 2011 Updated: December 28, 2011 - 10:16 PM TAMPA -- If you have ever been to AirFest at MacDill Air Force Base, watched fighters zoom over Raymond James Stadium or heard the thumping drone of military helicopters over your house in Brandon, you have witnessed the handiwork of Richard "Dick" Cutshall, a retired Air Force captain and aviation pioneer. Cutshall – who helped launch AirFest in 1987 and served as its "air boss" running the show ever since – died on Christmas Day after more than a decade battling breast cancer. He was 62. "From my heart, he will forever be a legend with MacDill," said Chip Diehl, a retired Air Force brigadier general who commanded the base from 1999 to 2001. "He will live on forever. Every time we see an AirFest, or a fly-by, we will remember Dick Cutshall." * * * * * The man who had such a tremendous influence at MacDill actually started his military career in the Navy. He was an electrician's mate in the Navy from 1969 until 1973, according to his wife, Carol Cutshall. The two were high school sweethearts, got married young, had a son, Troy. The two split up in 1974, and Cutshall left their home in Cocoa Beach and went to Daytona. He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and received his commission in the Air Force. He was an honor graduate of air traffic control school and served on Air Force bases in Mississippi, Myrtle Beach, Michigan, Greenland and Germany before arriving at MacDill, where he eventually became a director of operations for the 23rd Wing, responsible for scheduling, maintenance and management of air-ground training. Cutshall retired from the Air Force in 1987 but remained at MacDill working as a civilian. Cutshall had three other children – sons Scott Cutshall and Kyle Moore and a daughter, Krissy Barbour. Then Carol's husband died 13 years ago. And Cutshall's second wife died seven years ago. A short while later, Cutshall came to visit Carol to see the birth of their second grandson. "We just kind of rekindled our relationship and remarried in 2005," she said. "I felt like it was God's plan for us to get back together." * * * * * As an air traffic controller at MacDill, Cutshall learned a great deal about flightline operations, safety and coordinating military flights with civilian aviation officials. On top of that, he had an abiding love of the military and wanted to do whatever he could to instill that sense of duty in the young, said Dave Snyder, a retired brigadier general who commanded MacDill from 2003 to 2006. "He was big part of AirFest and the base and bringing the capability of the military to the general public in the Tampa Bay area," said Snyder. "He left a big mark on the community by showcasing the military, not just at MacDill, but around the nation." Cutshall also left a big impression on young Air Force officers, said one of his best friends, Richard Smith. Smith, who served as a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller at Tampa International Airport from 1982 until retiring in 2007, got to know Cutshall by working closely with him coordinating AirFests as well as flyovers at football games and public events like the Gasparilla Parade. Cutshall, said Smith, became a legend to the up-and-coming Air Force officers. "MacDIll is a base where a lot of young officers come to get experience and move on," said Smith. "One thing they looked forward to was AirFest. Cutshall would be the mentor who would plan, coordinate and execute it." Wayne Boggs knows just how tough it is to run AirFest. A professional air boss himself, the retired air traffic controller worked closely with Cutshall for years. "As air boss, you choreograph the show," said Boggs, who also performs in air shows in his vintage Fairchild PT-19. "It is entertainment no matter how you look at it, but not only do you choreograph the show, you control the event, with safety being the No. 1 priority. He was very good at it." After 9/11, the military stopped doing air shows as security precautions made them difficult to put on. Under his watch, Snyder decided to revive AirFest in 2004. "Cutshall was instrumental in making that happen," said Snyder. The event was a huge success, Snyder said. "We had a million people over the two days." Aside from running AirFest and coordinating the military flyovers above Buccaneers games, Outback Bowl and the Gasparilla Parade, Cutshall was also director of operations at the Avon Park Air Force Range, where he was responsible for, among other things, coordinating the military exercises that sent aircraft over Brandon for urban area target practice – albeit without weapons. On Monday, when a Coast Guard C-130 and two H-60 helicopters roar over Raymond James Stadium for the annual Outback Bowl fly-over, a large crowd will look up and cheer. But for Richard Smith, who still serves as a liaison between the bowl game and the FAA, the thundering rumble of the aircraft will be bittersweet. "I am going to be thinking this all started 26 years ago or so with Dick and his enthusiasm to bring the military to the people so they could see what was going on," said Smith. "For the first time, he won't be there. But he will be in our hearts."Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for our newsletter "All Things Aviation" here!