Legend Of Florida Aviation Was 83
Aero-News has learned of the passing
of a true legend. Owen H. Gassaway Jr. didn't make his name in the
aviation community by flying planes, but by managing and servicing
them... and, making a well-known airport what it is today.
Gassaway, who passed away December 27 at the age of 83, started
his career in aerospace out of high school, working as an aircraft
mechanic at Morrison Field (known today as Palm Beach International
Airport) and for the Civil Air Patrol. He enlisted in the Army
during World War II, as a tank driver and mechanic.
Following his service in General George Patton's 3rd Army, he
returned to Florida and founded sales, maintenance and charter
outfit Florida Airmotive Inc. at nearby Lantana Airport. The
company sported a 23-plane DC-3 charter fleet, and for a number of
years was also the largest Beechcraft distributor in the nation,
reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
At the time, Lantana was little-more than a spot on the chart...
but under Gassaway's leadership, the airport -- officially known as
Palm Beach County Park Airport, but far more commonly called by its
original name -- rose to become one of the premier general aviation
airports on the East Coast. To reflect his service to the field,
the Lantana terminal bears his name -- The Owen H. Gassaway
Gassaway also served as director of the local chapter of the
Florida Aero Club, and started the Scout Aviation Explorers Post at
Lantana (LNA.) In 1996, he was awarded the Charles Taylor Award by
the FAA, for his 50 years of continuous service in aircraft
maintenance. At the time, he jokingly attributed his hard work in
aviation to an aversion to housework.
"I tell my wife there's some hard work to do around the house
and I don't want to do that," he said. In 2002, he earned the
Phillips 66 Aviation Leadership Award, for his unwavering support
of EAA's Young Eagles program.
Gassaway was married for over 60 years to his wife, Alice, whom
he met during his Army service at Fort Dix in New Jersey.