Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ottumwa native honored for aviation accomplishments

OTTUMWA — Some lessons learned in your hometown can stay with you for a lifetime and provide the means to accomplish any goal.

For Greg Herrick, 62, a native Ottumwan who now resides in Blaine, Minn., flying lessons that he took in Ottumwa as a teenager have provided him with the background to become a leader in the aviation community. To recognize his great accomplishments in the aviation field, Herrick is a 2014 inductee into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.

While growing up in Ottumwa, Herrick enjoyed swimming, lettering three times on the Ottumwa High School swim team. He graduated from OHS in 1970, and as a graduation gift, his parents paid for his first flying lessons.

Herrick said when he was in the process of getting his pilot’s license he would go up two or three times a week and right away he fell in love with flying and the old Ford Trimotor he flew.

“That maybe made an impression on me,” he said. “I just fell in love with the old airplanes. I fell in love with the idea of being able to fly.”

Once his high school days were over, Herrick attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a degree in marketing. He moved to Blaine, Minn., in 1980 and had many successful business ventures, including the establishment of the personal computer manufacturer ZEOS International, which was named America’s Fastest Growing Public Company by Fortune magazine in 1991.

After selling ZEOS International in 1995, he created Sky Media, LLC, which publishes the Historic Aviation, Historic Rail and The Civil War Standard and Military Issue mail order catalogs. He also started the marketing publication AircraftOwner, which reaches out to aircraft buyers and businesses that own and fly their own planes.

Herrick serves as the president of the Aviation Foundation of America, and has been the driving force behind many historic flight recreations, airport preservation projects and educational programs, and he has even gotten an amendment passed by the U.S. Congress. The amendment is titled FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act 2012, but more commonly referred to as “The Herrick Amendment.”

He currently owns and operates the Golden Wing Flying Museum in Blaine, which houses most of his 42 aircraft. There are many prized possessions in his collection, including a 1927 Ford Trimotor, which is, according to Herrick, the oldest flying metal aircraft in the world.

“We have people come from all over the world to see the planes,” Herrick said.

Although he has reached national aviation stardom, Herrick still loves to come back to Ottumwa to participate in the antique fly-in every year in Blakesburg. He said the Antique Airplane Association and its founder and president, Bob Taylor, were the main inspirations when he started getting involved in aviation as a teenager.

“The Antique Airplane Association is really the reason I got into it,” he said.

Herrick is one of the many examples that lessons learned in a Midwestern town like Ottumwa can stick with a person for a lifetime and aid in achieving significant accomplishments.

Story and photos:

Greg Herrick, center, poses for a picture with astronauts Captain Gene Cernan, left, Commander Neil Armstrong, seated, and Captain Jim Lovell, right, at an event at the Explorer's Club in New York. Herrick, a native Ottumwan, will be inducted into the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame in April to recognize all of the contributions he has made to aviation.