Pilot Profile – Eric Hummel

We have one more very exciting Pilot Profile – Eric Hummel, Executive Director and Chief Flight Instructor at The East Hill Flying Club!

For Eric, airplanes and flying have been a central theme in his life since he was a young boy. His father had a friend who was a Private Pilot, and he took Eric for his first airplane ride when he was about 7 years old. That was it – he was hooked!  He lived near the airport in Muncie, IN. There was a LOT of General Aviation activity there, and a neighbor who worked as an airplane salesman took him flying several times as well.

The love of flying was outweighed for several years by finances (flying is not cheap!), but he had the opportunity to learn to fly in his mid-20s. He flew as a hobby for the next 15 or so years, then between 2000-2005 he obtained his Commercial Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, Multiengine Rating, and Flight Instructors Certificate. He has been flying constantly since then at The East Hill Flying Club.

For Eric, two things have been constants in his life since about 1969: playing trumpet and flying airplanes. He majored in music in college, made his living for about a decade as a performer, then became a public school band director for nearly 30 years and continued to be very active as a performer. Airplanes have been there alongside the trumpet the whole way.

In August 2019, Eric took over as Executive Director and Chief Flight Instructor at the East Hill Flying Club, where he has been working part time since 2005. He still continues playing trumpet as much as he can, which is not much these days, he says.

When asked what the highlight of his aviation career has been, Eric struggled to pick out one specific moment, so he listed several highlights. He learned to fly at Andrews Air Force Base and saw Air Force One flying from the air;  he had the opportunity to fly a PT-17 Stearman (WWII trainer) with the astronaut / owner in the back seat; he rode in a WWII B-17 bomber last September; he flew a Cessna 172 along the Lake Michigan shoreline past downtown Chicago and across Lake Michigan; he flew a light twin-engine plane around the island of Oahu, and later flew a glider along the North Shore of Oahu; and he flew a Cessna 172 down the Hudson River Corridor at night, one year after 9-11.

B-17 Bomber at Ithaca Tompkins International Airport, September 2019

He thinks the true highlight(s) have been when he was able to offer a first – and sadly, in some cases the last – airplane ride of someone’s life.  The human connection when someone is passionate about flying is amazing.

When asked what his dream plane to fly would be, he said “Hands down the P-51 Mustang. By all accounts from anyone who has ever flown one is that it is the best propeller-driven airplane ever built. Probably will never happen!”

P-51 Mustang

According to Eric, “one of the incredible things about aviation is that it is barely 100 years old. He has spoken with a pilot who knew Orville Wright! The development in engineering / design and overall understanding about aerodynamic principles that occurred in the first 40 years alone (up to the end of WWII) is unbelievable in itself; then to think that we landed on the moon 24 years after that is almost beyond belief. The fact that people are still exploring and expanding the envelope of what aircraft might be capable of achieving is really exciting to me.”

When asked about the future of aviation, Eric believes commercial aviation will continue to grow and expand once the Covid virus is under control.

“The “quarantine” period we have been living in since last March has really shined a light on the fact that no matter how good our technology is, or how efficient ‘virtual’ connections might be, we are all human beings and human beings REALLY need to be personally, physically connected with other human beings. People have ALWAYS traveled to connect with other people, and we always will.”

Eric loves the passion and the diversity of the aviation community in Ithaca. From young teenage kids to Cornell PHD candidates, contractors, schoolteachers, farmers, attorneys, scientists, blue collar, white collar, conservative, liberal – they all share the vision, passion, and belief in aviation.

“The Thomas-Morse Scout project is a perfect example of this, as was the Airport Community Day held last September. We had virtually ALL of the local aviation entities taking part and pulling together to make this a success: The Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport management, the Air Traffic Controllers, Taughannock Aviation, the local EAA chapter, and the East Hill Flying Club were the primary drivers, but there were many other individuals who stepped in and helped out as well.”

If you’re interested in taking flying lessons at the East Hill Flying Club with Eric, check out their website!

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