Chapter 52 was founded in 1976 by Daniel Héligoin and Montaine Mallet, who ran an aerobatic flight school flying French Cap-10 airplanes out of Dutchess County Airport in Poughkeepsie, NY (KPOU). Dainel and Montaine gave our chapter a foundation of seriousness and fun. Their students and instructors were held to the highest standards of aerobatic precision, always encouraged to do better than their best. Daniel and Montaine had a contest every year and were the first to have a contest at Montgomery, Orange County Airport (KMGJ).
In 1992, Gerry Gerdes took leadership of the chapter and revived it from a period of relative inactivity. He rallied a few dedicated souls, incuding Ron Saglimbene, John Cornwell, Jeff Seckendorf, Hilton Tallman, Olga Mitchell, and Miriam Levin to start holding meetings, training judges, training pilots, and organizing a contest. Under Gerry's leadership the Chapter was incorporated in New York in 1993 as the "Mid-Hudson Aerobatic Club"
Miriam Levin writes of the time, "Gerry was a fantastic Chapter President and chief judge. Under his leadership we had great contests, judge's schools, spin training with Bill Finagin as well as aerobatic demos and spin training with Rich Stowell for the public." Says Ron Saglimbene, "The real organizer, ramrod and the guy that brought the chapter back from oblivion was Gerry Gerdes. He was Prez for years- very active- a national judge- chiefed many contests all over the North East- organized many contests and judges schools and basically single handedly kept the chapter alive and made it grow."
Gerry handed-over reign of the chapter to Kathy Jaffe when he retired from the sport. Ron says, "She had very little to do with organized aerobatics until she became Prez', but she was special. She threw herself into it and kept us all together. She had more ambition and guts than anyone I've ever met." The Chapter continued to hold contests at Orange, with a practice box over the airport, until the parachute jumping school became large enough that it couldn't spare a weekend any longer. Kathy, Miriam, and Olga Mitchell scoped-out Monticello, Sullivan County Airport (KMSV) and began holding our "Contest in the Catskills" there in the later part of the 90's.
Kathy gave to the chapter boundless enthusiasm, spirit, energy, and humor. Once as Kathy was watching her competitors fly and waiting her turn a woman took a place beside her at the fence and said, "Those guys sure look like they're having fun." "They sure do," said Kathy. After a few minutes her turn came to fly and she said, "You know, I think I'll try it." With that she walked over to her plane, strapped-in, and taxied-off to fly her sequence. It was Kathy who coined our audacious motto together with Ron Spencer. Ron Chadwick rendered it in the Latin "Osculamini Nostros Asinos." Roughly translated that says, "Kiss our collective butts."
After losing Kathy in the Spring of 1999 the chapter had a meeting at Ron Saglimbene's hangar, the "Pitts Palace" at Lincoln Park (N07). Stephen Seidel agreed to be President in the interim and Ron Chadwick Vice-President. Kathy had been Contest Director for many years. No-one else wanted to try the job. Ron Chadwick took it on and has done it unfailingly ever since. Deanna Willson stepped in as Treasurer.
Stephen, as he puts it, "pushed on rope and herded cats" for a few years. It was a tough time to get people excited around any kind of chapter activity. The chapter was deeply wounded by the loss of Kathy. At this time, Sag headed the effort to raise funds and establish the IAC Kathy Jaffe Spirit Award and the chapter renewed a focus on spin training. Our contest continued at Monticello, renamed in memory of Kathy, "The Kathy Jaffe Challenge," starting in 1999.
In the Spring of 2001 everyone got together again and elected a new, up-and-coming aerobatic pilot and enthusiastic volunteer to hold the office of President. Alex Belov was one of a continuing series of pilots introduced to the sport by Stephen Seidel, including Kathy. Alex attended his first contest as scorekeeper and his second as competitor. Before becoming President, Alex founded our chapter web site. Under Alex, our center of activity moved to Lincoln Park. At this time, Ron Chadwick sharpened the Chapter logo into its current form with the help of his daughter Cari. Our contest remained at Monticello until 2005.
Since 2005 our chapter has enjoyed the leadership of Tom Parsons and Chris Getz. Our contest has moved to the Flying-W Airport Resort in Lumberton, NJ (N14) where we find friendly and welcoming accomodation. Many able, talented, dedicated, and entertaining individuals contribute to the life of the chapter. Longtime members Stephen Seidel, Ron Chadwick, Ron Saglimbene, and Miriam Levin keep a steady hand in the chapter. If you want to fly with those who try all of the boundaries and potentials of flight in airplanes, Chapter 52 is a great place to do it. Daniel, Montaine, and Kathy would be proud to call us their own.
Visit our archives for the continuing history, stories, and adventures of Chapter 52.
The following people have been active with IAC Chapter 52 at some time in their aviation careers. A couple even hang-around with us sometimes. While many of us are notable in other ways, we're not every one an ICAS Hall of Famer or IAC National Champion: