Airshow Performer Duane Cole

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Duane Cole

Airshow Performer Duane Cole
When I was growing up, one of the best known aerobatic pilots was Duane Cole. It wasn’t because Duane flew a fire-breathing monoplane or did countless snap-rolls on his down lines; Duane was popular because he was an entertainer. He campaigned a modified Taylorcraft for most of his career, which spanned over 50 years.

In fact flying airshows was a family business. Duane was part of the Coles Brothers Airshow, which included his brothers, his wife Judy, and later their son Rolly along with some other “hired guns.”

In 1951, Cole was one of 12 men who gathered in Milwaukee to form a new airplane builders club that, two years later, became the Experimental Aircraft Association.

cole duane

Duane was also a prolific author, writing nine books.  I owe it to him for keeping me alive as a young, self-taught aerobatic pilot – that’s another story for another day. Books like Turns Roll Around a Point and Conquest of Lines and Symmetry were written in a time when few books on the subject existed.

The reason Cole was in the industry so long and survived was his attitude about precision. He was never the type to “stunt fly”, rather he performed in a way that left himself multiple options, yet still entertained the crowds. He and his T-Cart won the US National Aerobatic Championships in 1962 and 1964.

As an instructor, he taught hundreds how to fly with good old-fashioned stick-and-rudder skills running a flight school between 1967 and 1987.

Cole was also inducted into the Illinois Aviation Hall of Fame (1983), the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame (1987), and the International Council of Air Shows Hall of Fame (1996).

He died of natural causes at the age of 89, with more than 30,000 hours of flight time. His lifelong partner and wife, Judy, died a month later.

I never met Mr. Cole, but having read many of his books and articles, I feel like I knew him.
Duane was a true ambassador to our sport.
Here’s a video from 1955. It’s rough, but hey it was only a home movie from 58 years ago.


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