Sunday, March 13, 2016

Inveterate aviator George Vose dies

George Vose

FORT STOCKTON – George Vose, who had been flying in light aircraft and teaching new pilots since 1941, died peacefully early Monday in a Fort Stockton nursing home.

He was 93.

“He was my flight instructor and taught me all I know,” said Cade Woodward, a flight instructor and member of the Alpine Airport Advisory Board. “His unique style was an inspiration in my career.

“He came through the Depression and World War II, a very special group of people, and was a very important addition to our lives and to our log books,” he said.

Vose did many things beyond flying, including his work on bone density and working with the U.S. astronaut program, X-Rays and wildlife tracking, Woodward said.

He was hospitalized with pneumonia last week but was released. Vose wanted to return to his home at Taurus Mesa in south Brewster County but his doctor said he needed continued health care so he was moved to the nursing home.

He died peacefully early Monday, his nephew John Robertson of Skaneateles, New York, said.

The Avalanche featured Vose in 2014 as a pilot with a certified flight instructor rating at age 92.

Federal rules require commercial airline pilots to retire at age 65 but private pilots can fly as long as they can maintain their health certificates.

“The hardest part now is getting in and out of the airplane,” he said in June 2014.

Vose had two knee replacements and got around with the aid of a cane. His lone airplane in Alpine was a high-wing Cessna 172, though he also had a part interest in a Piper J3 Cub based in Denton.

Low-wing airplanes that require climbing onto the wing to gain entry are “out of the question,” he said.

Vose got his first lesson in an Aeronca Chief in 1941 and two years later was giving indoctrination training to potential military cadets as a civilian flight instructor in Piper L4s, the military designation for the popular Cub.

Since those days, he trained more than 2,500 pilots, many going on to careers including as airline pilots. “I’m so old, many of my students are retiring,” Vose said.

Over his long career, he flew radio-telemetry wildlife tracking for various government agencies. The first “run” was on a peregrine falcon, tracking the bird from Texas Padre Island to Lake Superior where it entered Canada.

He flew author Alan Tennant on some of his falcon-tracking ventures described in his best-selling book, “On the Wing.”

And he flew a BBC photographer over the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

During the war, Vose was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base near Wichita Falls.

“I hated Texas,” he said. “I hated Wichita Falls. I never wanted to see Texas again.”

Vose moved to Bakersfield, California, saying he would never go back to Texas.

But he drove through the Big Bend area in 1952 and liked it. Later, while working for Texas State College for Women in Denton, now Texas Woman’s University, he met Assistant Comptroller Jim Whitehead, who had graduated from Sul Ross State University.

“I asked him how I might buy some land in Brewster ‘South County.’ He advised me to subscribe to the Alpine Avalanche,” he said.

Responding to an ad in the paper, Vose said he found 1,600 acres about 50 air miles south of Alpine “when land was very cheap.”

He bought it in 1977 and began building an adobe home and laying out four gravel-surface runways 3,500 to 5,000 feet long.

Vose built his Taurus Mesa adobe home almost completely by himself.

He laid out three runways, plus one leading to his home. He sold land along the main runways for residents to build homes so they could have quick access to the airfield.

He hosted fly-ins and barbecues at Taurus Mesa in the fall and friends came from around the world.

He lived there ever since.

Woodward said Vose did not want a funeral. Instead, friends and family are planning a future fly-in, which could include a flyover to spread his ashes over Taurus Mesa.

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