The Liberty Gazette
March 10, 2009
March 10, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Linda: Cliff Hyde Jr. is officially retired, but he’s still in high demand. A legend in aviation long before retirement, his wife, Nadeen, wonders if he’ll have to go back to work to get any time off.
Long before I took my private pilot check ride with him, he taught a few other Liberty County residents to fly, including Mac McCarty. Cliff sold several airplanes to McCarty over the years, and flew his customers on chartered flights to the McCarty ranch. He remembers Benny Rusk, Earl Atkins, and Bob Jamison. Recently we joined aviators, friends and family in honoring Cliff’s many years of service. “I love flying and I’ve enjoyed the business,” he said. “The people you meet along the way are the ones that make it worthwhile.”
Mike: Cliff first flew solo in a Piper PA-11 in 1953 and has been flying continuously since. One of his biggest fans, the FAA awarded him the Master Pilot Award for 50 years of excellence with no accidents, incidents, or violations on his record. “After running around with that Liberty bunch I’d say that’s an achievement,” he laughs.
His father, Cliff Sr., started flying in 1927. Having experienced his first flight with legendary airplane builder Eddie Stinson in Detroit, he came to Houston Municipal Airport (now Hobby) to learn to fly. The following year he started Cliff Hyde Flying Service. “Back then, you just flew and when you got good you got a piece of paper that said you were a pilot. After you had 100 hours you could instruct,” Cliff Jr. says.
The company offered flight training, sales, charter flights, and maintenance. They were the Piper distributor for this area, which was how he met a lot of folks in Liberty County. “It is because of that airport in Liberty that we have done quite a bit of business there.”
In 1940 the family business moved to the Sam Houston Airport. Cliff Jr. worked there after school from the time he was 14 years old. “During the war, Dad offered a CPT program through the University of Houston, training Army and Navy pilots. The flying portion was conducted at Sam Houston Airport. He also offered the program through Lee College and the Baytown airport, and Sam Houston State and the Huntsville airport,” he explains.
In 1957 Cliff Hyde Flying Service moved to LaPorte. They became the Commander dealer through 1982, and added a Cessna dealership from 1972 until 1982 when Cessna quit making airplanes until something was done about greedy litigation. Cliff developed and ran the aviation program at San Jacinto College for 31 years and developed the Eastern-Continental Airlines Pilot Development Program. He’s been an FAA Designated Examiner since 1972. “At last count,” he says, “I’d given about 4500 check rides.”
In 1998 the company relocated to Ellington Field, and last December Robert and Helene McCorvey purchased Cliff Hyde Flying Service. It was their second flight training business acquisition. In 2006 they purchased Fletcher flight training at Hobby. Today, the school operates at Ellington Field as Flying Tigers Flight School, and with this rich heritage, Fletcher in operation 61 years and Cliff Hyde in operation 71 years, the McCorveys hope to fill some very big shoes. Fortunately, Cliff will continue to flight instruct. His goal is to be the oldest flying commercial pilot.
Linda: There’s an intersection in the sky named after him, too, and for good reason. We’ll tell you about that next week. Till then, blue skies.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.