Below is another person who has dedicated her life to aviation. Her name is Patricia Hange. Her dedication has earned her the Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award as well as the respect of her fellow AMTs. It is because of people like Patricia Hange that the AMT profession is where it is today which is a Brotherhood and Sisterhood of skilled professionals. The AMTA wishes to thank Patricia for her dedication and leadership.
Patricia "Pat" Hange
Ever hear the term "Prop Girl"? Well, Patricia Hange has. Pat, as she is known by, started her aviation carrier as a "Prop Girl" by gassing airplanes, sweeping hangars and other responsibilities that a girl of 17 would do to be near aircraft. But her love of aviation can be found, literally, on the seasoned leather rim on the cockpit of a 1929 Douglas 0-38. This is the aircraft her father flew in as an observer for the National Guard in Cleveland Ohio.
Pat would follow her love of aviation by being a "Prop Girl" and eventually started working with mechanics more than she worked in the hangar. Eventually she "edged into the job". At age 19 she was already removing spark plugs from Corsair F-2-G. She never thought she was in an unusual profession for a girl. And neither did Cook Cleland & the men she worked with. At age 22 Pat started working at Cook Cleland's Willoughby Airport in 1946 where she would learn to do a complete overhaul on a 1932 Waco which was an aircraft used for flying banners.
Pat said, "You know, I found out years later that my dad got me that first job as a prop girl with Cook Cleland out at the Euclid Avenue Airport in Willoughby, Ohio. I fueld them, hand pumped them, greased tailwheels and swept up after everyone in the beginning, but as time went on and Cleland got more and more involved in racing, I had the chance to work on all sorts of aircraft: PT26's, V77's, Wacos, Corsairs and PBY's. Fabric work was what I was good at then, too." There was one particular event that Pat remembers where an elevator needed emergency fabric work and her patch held. Even though Cook Clelend, who was flying the aircraft, pushed the aircraft to close to 400 MPH around a closed course!
After Pat took her A&P written exam Cleland volunteered for the Korean front and closed down Euclid Airport. Pat then went to work for Thompson Products (now TRW), first on the burring line (sanding parts) and then later as a parts inspector in the quality assurance division. It wasn't working on or around aircraft, but she was at least inspecting aircraft parts which in itself is an overlooked and responsibility laden job.
Pat had had acquired the burned out shell of a Taylorcraft and rebuilt it, then rebuilt another. She then earned her Private Pilot certificate. That's when Pat met Harriet Hamilton. Pat said, "Harriet was running Lenox Airport in Ashtabula, Ohio, and I went up there looking for Taylorcraft parts." It wasn't long before the two paired up, Hamilton a school teacher before she became a flight instructor, understood the business end of running a flight school. Pat became the maintenance end of the Lennox Flight School business.
After visiting the Schweitzer factory in Elmira, New York, where gliders were manufactured the two got involved in gliders and got involved in the sport. They then made Lennox Airport the first home of the new Cleveland Soaring Society. Pat would go on to earn her commercial and CFI ratings so she could also teach in the gliders and powered aircraft the school had. After the cold weather reduced the flying conditions in Ohio the two moved to Bartow, Florida where they rebuilt the Lennox Flight School in the winter of 1963. It was at this time that Harriet encouraged Pat to get her A&P certificate so they would be less reliant on outside help with their aircraft. Taking the oral and practical exams some 10 years after taking her written portion, especially when the 10 years from 1954 to 1964 (written exams did not expire in those days) wasn't the easiest thing in the world for Pat to do. But working on aircraft for as long as she had with all the experience that she earned got her through this test.
With Bartsow's rapid growth it became harder and harder to fly gliders so Pat & Harriet moved to Arcadia Airport in 1973. They then realized they needed their own airport so they found a pasture just over the county line. Hamilton helped the owner get Gardner Airport licensed and on the property. Then, with painted tires as boundaries marking the runway edges and ends the two signed a lease in 1983 and moved Lenox Flight School there.
Pat soon became sought after for her careful restorations of older aircraft. Her IA certificate, which she earned in 1978, enabled her the ability to sign off annual inspections and major repairs. This also enabled Pat to become completely independent in her shop. When Pat applied for her IA she was one of only four women in the country with the certificate.
Patricia "Pat" Hange would go on to earn the F.A.A.'s Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award for her more than 50 years of experience in the aviation maintenance community. Pat is also the FIRST F.A.A. Certified Female I.A. to receive this distinguished recognition!
The AMTA wishes to gratefully thank Amy Laboda for her permission to use her article on Patricia Hange for our web site. Amy is a freelance writer who is also an ATP-rated pilot who frequently flies the southeast and the islands in search of the next adventure.