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Thurman Sizer (T.S.) Alphin

September 29, 2010
  • Thurman Sizer (T.S.) Alphin
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JAN. 29, 1917-SEPT. 27, 2010

Born Jan. 29, 1917, in Buchanan, Va. He died Monday, Sept. 27, 2010.

Thurman S. Alphin (known to his flying friends as T.S.) grew up on the family farm in Buchanan, Va. His mechanical skills came naturally as he helped repair farm equipment. His first job was driving a school bus and helping his brother-in-law as a mechanic at the local Ford dealership. When he was 18, he bought his first dump truck from the local junkyard and rebuilt it. Only one year later, he had earned enough money to buy a second truck and operated a small business hauling stone and asphalt for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

After reading an article about aircraft mechanics earning more than a dollar a day, he sold his trucks in 1940 and went to Curtis Wright Technical Institute in Glendale, Calif., for Aviation Mechanics School. He graduated in December 1941 and was employed by the government as an aviation mechanic and inspector in Middletown, Pa., in January 1942. Most of his time was taken inspecting aircraft being sent to Europe during WWII and helping repair damaged planes that had been returned for repairs. He continued working there until after the end of the war.

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While in Middletown, Pa., he met and married a local school teacher, Mary Louise Bullock. After the war, with two children, James Richard and Mary Beth, he began looking for a better-paying position. In 1946, he heard that Fairchild Aircraft was hiring aircraft inspectors. He came alone to Hagerstown and was hired immediately. After calling his wife with the news, he purchased property for a home here. In late 1946, the house was finished enough for the family to join him. In 1955, they had a second son, Thurman Lloyd (T.L.).

Along with his work at Fairchild, he worked as the director of maintenance at the Hagerstown airport. He received his pilot's license in 1947. In 1948, Alphin Aircraft was born when he rented the maintenance building at the airport from Henson Aviation. As the business grew, the location at the airport changed until 1965, when he purchased property adjacent to the airport and received a right-of-way for a taxiway onto the county airport property.

In the late 1960s, Alphin Aircraft Incorporated (AAI) became a full-service certified repair station, and worked on major and minor airframe structural repairs, annual inspections, engine overhauls, radio repairs and installation, painting, and interior installations, aircraft accident retrievals and engine testing for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

He held a commercial and instrument pilot's license with land and sea ratings, as well as having multiengine rating and type rating in a DC-3. He has flown to sights all over the Continental U.S., Alaska, Mexico, Canada, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico, with more than 5,000 hours of flight time as pilot in command.

Known for his ability to identify and correct problems in airplanes, sometimes from the factory, his business grew rapidly. AAI repaired 2 Convair 300 series aircraft with major structural damage, with the assistance of an engineer for the repair design. He went on site to repair aircraft in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. He personally retrieved a Cessna 421 from the tundra in Greenland and was sent to South America by an insurance company to evaluate the feasibility of repair of an aircraft that crashed in the jungle. The aircraft parts on display in the Observation Lounge in the BWI airport terminal were modified, prepared and installed by AAI.

Earning a Designated Mechanic Examiner certificate in 1969, he both trained and tested mechanics for their A&P (Aircraft & Powerplant) licenses. The business was sold in 1997 and now operates as Hagerstown Aviation Services Inc.

Locally, Mr. Alphin was active in the Hagerstown Kiwanis, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Quiet Birdmen (QB). He opened his business for educational tours and vocational training, and frequently sponsored free rides for several local charitable organizations. He was a member of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Williamsport, MD.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Louise Bullock Alphin; and his son, James Richard. He is survived by his daughter, Mary Beth Alphin; his son, Thurman Lloyd and his wife, Mary Ann Alphin; his daughter-in-law, Carol J. Alphin; four grandchildren; and four great grandchildren.

Family will receive guests at Douglas A. Fiery Funeral Home, 1331 Eastern Blvd North, Hagerstown, Md., Saturday, Oct. 2 from 6 to 9 p.m. Memorial service will be Sunday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m. at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 10813 Donelson Drive, Williamsport, Md.

Private interment will be at the Cedar Lawn Memorial Park.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church Building Fund or Hagerstown Aviation Museum Inc., 14235 Oak Springs Road, Hagerstown, MD 21742.

Online condolences may be expressed at http://www.douglasfiery.com.

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