Local aviator to receive award

June 02, 1999|By ERIN HEATH

When local aviator Thurman "T. S." Alphin decided to become an airplane mechanic, he did it to earn some extra money. Thursday, after almost 52 years in the airplane repair industry, Alphin is being rewarded for his contribution to aviation in Maryland.

Alphin, 82, will receive a Maryland Aviation Pioneer Award at the 1999 Maryland Aviation Summit Conference, being held Thursday at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum Heights.

The conference, sponsored by the Maryland Aviation Administration and the Baltimore Flight Standards District Office, will feature workshops and award presentations for state aviators.

Alphin worked as an airplane mechanic in Hagerstown for two years at Fairchild before starting his own aircraft repair business, Alphin Aircraft, in 1948.


Alphin said he has restored "well over 2,000 airplanes to service and not one airplane wasn't airworthy."

Alphin sold the business in 1997 to Hagerstown Aircraft Services.

He continued to fly his own plane after retirement.

"I've been all over the country, and I've put in well over 7,000 hours of flying time," he said.

Members of the Maryland Aviation Historical Task Force sifted through nominations from people in the state aviation industry before selecting the award recipients.

Award winners can come from three different categories, according to task force member Jon Buck: Those who make contributions to the industry in areas such as technical research, airplane design, airport management and flight safety; those who set records; and those who serve as role models for fellow aviators.

"A lot of them are the unsung heroes - people who have built aviation businesses and people who have worked behind the scenes to develop aviation within the state," Buck said.

The task force chose Alphin because he established a well-known aircraft restoration business in Hagerstown and showed a lifetime commitment to aviation, Buck said.

The task force was created to prepare events for the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C., which will be in 2003. Four years ago, task force members decided to expand their mission and reward the "old-timers" who have made contributions to the aviation industry, Buck said.

A number of other airports and aviators will be honored at Thursday's conference, including the 50-year-old Frederick Municipal Airport, which will be named the 1999 Airport of the Year.

The conference coincides with Gov. Parris Glendening's declaration of June 1 to June 7 as Maryland Aviation Week.

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