John K. Hinson, 89, aviator, first to fly in and out of BWI

October 06, 1997|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

John Kershaw Hinson, a pioneering Maryland aviator who was the first person to fly in and out of what is now Baltimore-Washington International Airport when it opened in 1950, died of natural causes Saturday at North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie. He was 89 and lived in Hanover.

A pilot for nearly 60 years, Mr. Hinson taught flying and sold airplanes to thousands of people in the Baltimore area.

"He just loved to fly," said a son, Dallas Hinson of Baltimore. "He was the first pilot to land at BWI -- and this was during its construction."

The facility was called Friendship International Airport before the name was changed to BWI in 1973.

Born in Sumter, S.C., Mr. Hinson, left school in the sixth grade and moved to Washington, where, in 1929, he opened an auto repair shop. He also fixed motorcycles. In 1935, he moved to Woodlawn and later to Hanover.

In the 1930s, Mr. Hinson saw an advertisement in a newspaper that said: "Learn to fly for $45." He signed up and after a lesson that lasted three hours and 45 minutes, he earned a pilot's license. He then opened flight schools -- named Hinson Airways or Hinson Aviation -- at small airports in College Park, Washington, Annapolis and Essex.

He also opened a Piper Aircraft dealership at Rutherford Airport near Woodlawn.

Mr. Hinson was a pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II and ferried fighter planes and bombers around the world. He also trained military pilots.

When he returned to Maryland, he operated his dealership and school from Harbor Field Airport in Dundalk. After Friendship opened, he moved his company there.

He had a Pentagon contract to train military pilots.

He attempted to retire in 1964 and sold his Piper dealership. But within a year, he opened a Cessna dealership at Essex Sky Park. After a few years, he moved the business to BWI, sold it in 1995 and retired.

When he retired, BWI officials honored him with a ceremony at the airport.

"He's the classiest operator that we've had," Nicholas J. Schaus, BWI deputy administrator, said at the ceremony. "He's one of those larger-than-life persons, our Rock of Gibraltar. You can always depend on him."

A daughter, Carol Ann Mottino of Oceanside, Calif., said her father was known for his good deeds.

She recalled that during an extremely cold winter about 40 years ago, a boy with a ruptured appendix was trapped on Tangier Island with no way of getting to a hospital. She said her father attached skies to a plane and flew the boy to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he underwent a successful operation.

Mr. Hinson "really liked people, and he always tried to help," Mrs. Mottino said. "He was a dedicated father in a way. But of course, aviation came first in his life."

And it was a colorful life, with experiences including trading a plane for a bull with a farmer and accidentally landing a squadron of aircraft on a golf course.

"It's been a good life," Mr. Hinson said at the BWI ceremony in 1995. "It's a shame I can't make a living anymore, but I'm not going hungry."

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 6517 Frederick Road in Catonsville.

In 1930, he married Marion Dail, who died in 1962.

He is survived by his wife, Susan Hinson, whom he married in 1966; another son, John "Jimmy" Hinson of Pittsburgh; a stepson, Terrance Thrasher of Catonsville; 12 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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