Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Steve Hinton inducted into California Aviation Hall of Fame

Steve Hinton of Newport Beach poses with an image of the Red Baron, a modified P-51 Mustang that he flew to a world speed record in 1979. Hinton is being inducted Wednesday into the California Aviation Hall of Fame.

A Newport Beach pilot who has performed in air shows throughout the world and broke an aviation speed record in the 1970s is being honored Wednesday with membership in the California Aviation Hall of Fame.

Steve Hinton, 63, is one of four inductees this year into the hall, a state-registered subsidiary of the Museum of Flying, based in Santa Monica.

The hall recognizes "the most influential individuals that made a significant impact on the growth and development of aviation and aerospace," according to the museum's website.

Inductees are chosen by an independent selection committee.

"It's just an honor to be considered for something like that," Hinton said in an interview. "I'm glad to be honored and remembered for everything I've done."

Hinton, a Newport Beach resident for about two decades, was all but destined to be in the sky. He spent his earliest years growing up in California's Mojave Desert at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, where his father, a Marine, was working on the government's missile program.

Hinton first got interested in airplanes — model ones, that is — around age 7, yet he didn't get on a moving airplane until he was 15.

"From there, I haven't looked back," Hinton said.

Hinton specializes in piloting warbirds, or vintage military airplanes. He's logged some 11,000 flying hours in the cockpits of more than 150 types of planes.

Those hours have included a long association with Hollywood, where he has worked for decades as a pilot in dozens of films and TV shows, including "The Aviator," "Pearl Harbor," "Air Force One" and "Waterworld."

In 1979, Hinton, then 27, and his crew broke the 3-kilometer speed record for a piston engine aircraft. Over the Nevada desert, Hinton flew the Red Baron, a modified P-51 Mustang, an average of 499.018 mph.

Hinton noted that the record had been set earlier by aviation greats such as the Wright brothers and Howard Hughes.

"That's a motivation," he said.

His son, Steve Jr., at 21 became the youngest person to win the Reno Air Races.

"I used to be the youngest before [my son] won," Hinton said with a laugh.

Hinton doesn't plan on slowing down. When he's not flying, he serves as president of the Planes of Fame Air Museum locations in Chino and Valle, Ariz. He also runs his own airplane restoration company, Fighter Rebuilders, based in Chino.

The ground part of his life, Hinton said, "is really what I do every day."

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