The Captain William S. Arnott Legacy Award winner for 2003
Captain Elroy E. Hilbert / Retired United Airlines
Barbara J. Hanson, Sara Dornacker, "Buck", Dorothy Hilbert, Jim Dier
Elroy E. "Buck" Hilbert was presented the Arnott Legacy Award for the following reasons:
Because he has demonstrated a lifelong, passionate commitment to aviation and legendary leadership in the preservation of aircraft. This commitment began in boyhood, encompassed military service in WWII and Korean Conflict, spanned his commercial aviation career, and has continued well beyond his retirement from United Airlines.
Because, in addition to serving on the board of the United Airlines Historical Foundation though January of 2003, Buck has fostered the love of education and aviation in countless individuals around the world.
Because of his early interest in aviation, beginning in October of 1941, when he worked as a line boy and soloed from the old Elmhurst Airport near Chicago.
Because upon his graduation at the age of 17 from Lane Technical High School in Chicago in June of 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aircraft maintenance instructor. In May, of 1949 became a flight officer, flight instructor and Boeing B-17 bomber pilot during WWII. He flew B-17s as a gunnery pilot and finished up as a twin-engine transition instructor at Midland, Texas.
Because after his discharge in 1946, he worked as a flight instructor and charter pilot in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Recalled to duty during the Korean Conflict as a field artillery officer, he later flew Stinson L-5 and Cessna L-19 artillery spotter aircraft as Army aviator with the HQ Air Section of the 24th Infantry Division.
Because he joined United Airlines as a first officer in 1952 andwas assigned to the line at Chicago in February, 1953, where he flew the legendary Douglas DC-3. In addition, he also flew CV340s, DC-6s and 7s, Caravelles and DC-8s and was promoted to DC-6 Captain at Washington in 1965. He then checked out in Viscounts and returned to Chicago to fly B-727s and DC-8s, retiring as a Captain
flying DC-8s from Chicago's O'Hare.
Because Captain Buck Hilbert's devotion to aviation continued to inspire United Airlines employees and passengers well beyond his retirement. By the spring of 1976, Buck had painstakingly restored the Swallow, a tiny, 90-horsepower biplane of the type that Walter Varney, president of Varney Air Lines, used in beating other early private contractors into the mail flying game in 1926.
Because Bucks' restoration of the vintage Swallow allowed United Airlines public relations department on April 6, 1976, to stage a reenactment of the original Varney flight in 1926 when Chief Pilot Leon Cuddeback took off from Pasco, Washington, and coaxed his underpowered Swallow to Boise, Idaho, then over the mountains to Elko, Nevada, with the first small bag of letters. This first round trip marked the beginning of air mail service by any of the lines later merged into the United system.
Because Buck flew with the Swallow in a promotional tour around the United States. He and United public relations executives accompanied the restored Swallow airplane to Japan, where Buck reassembled and flew the Swallow to demonstrate that Varney's and later United 's intrepid 1926 venture played an important early role in drawing the airways map of the United States. In 1988, the Swallow Buck restored was officially donated to the Museum of Flight, hangs in the main gallery.
Because Buck has continued to restore antique airplanes, he serves as an educator and consultant to individuals and organizations. Over the years he has owned a number of antique aircraft, most of which
he restored himself. He also assists others to restore aircraft to exacting standards of authenticity and flight worthiness. In 2000, he was honored by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA)
as a recipient of its Elder Statesmen of Aviation Award, which recognized Buck for his contributions to the advancement and history of aviation.
Because he was a founding member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and served the EAA Air Museum as a member of the board of trustees and as a past president of the Antique & Classic Division.
Because Buck has remained interested in all facets of aviation, serving as a major in the Civil Air Patrol with a special staff assignment as aircraft maintenance officer for the Illinois wing of CAP. He also is an FAA accident prevention counselor and maintains his flight instructor ratings, flying and instructing in light airplanes. He is a life member of the Silver Wings Fraternity and the National Ryan Club, as well as the Aeronca, Cub, Porterfield and Waco Clubs.