Patrick Romano, 93, pilot, aviation mechanic

September 04, 1998|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

As a teen-ager growing up near Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, N.J., in the early 1920s, Patrick Romano became infatuated with the Jenny airplanes and the barnstorming pilots who flew them out of the legendary airport near New York City.

Mr. Romano, whose own career as a pilot, aviation mechanic and machinist spanned 75 years, died in his sleep Aug. 27 at his Parkville home. He was 93.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in Lodi, N.J., Mr. Romano graduated from a correspondence course in aeronautical engineering and went to work for Atlantic Aircraft Co., which later became Fokker Aircraft Corp.

"He came from a flying family. His younger brother Frank was a pilot, and his sister was married to Charles 'Slim' West, a barnstormer," said a nephew, Frank Romano, 75, of Ridgefield ++ Park, N.J.

He worked for Fokker, whose plant was at the Teterboro Airport, once known as the "hotbed of aviation."

While working for Fokker, Mr. Romano helped build the plane Adm. Richard Evelyn Byrd flew over the North Pole in 1926 and the multi-engine craft Byrd flew over the Atlantic three weeks after Charles Lindbergh's historic solo flight in 1927.

He worked on the Fokker monoplane Amelia Earhardt used to became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928.

In 1928, he and Mr. West opened one of the first government-approved aircraft repair stations at Teterboro and a year later he earned his pilot's license.

Mr. Romano followed Fokker's move to Baltimore in 1931. After the company changed its name to General Aviation and left the city for California in 1935, he stayed in Baltimore and continued working in aviation and as a machinist.

Family members say his innovations included the two-part airplane wheel hub that allowed rubber tires to be replaced more easily, and the swivel wheel beneath the tail of the aircraft.

In 1938, he established Logan Flying Service at the old Logan Field in Dundalk, which was then a municipal airport. There he taught flying in a used Piper J-3 Cub until the outbreak of World War II, when all privately owned coastal airports were closed for the duration of the war.

But he continued to fly. Once, flying from Baltimore to Teterboro, he ran into a fog near New York.

"He came out of the clouds to see where he was and realized he was heading for the Statue of Liberty and managed to just miss it," said his nephew, laughing. "In those days you didn't have the instruments, and a lot of flying was literally by the seat of your pants."

Mr. Romano joined the Civil Air Patrol and formed a Logan Field Squadron which flew out of Logan Field until the U.S. government ordered them to move to an inland airfield.

Several of the aviators put up $100 apiece to rent what Mr. Romano described as an "asparagus patch" near Westminster. That airfield evolved into Carroll County Airport.

After the war, he worked as a tool and die maker for Diecraft in Cockeysville, until he retired in 1972.

Mr. Romano was still flying with friends until two weeks before his death, said family members.

He was a member of the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame, OX-5 Aviation Pioneers, the Maryland Chapter of Silver Wings and the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

He was married in 1935 to the former Pauline Walinski, who died in 1992.

Services were held Monday.

He is survived by three sons, John Romano, David Romano and Robert Romano, all of Baltimore; a daughter, Bonnie Stein of South Bend, Ind.; and three grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/04/98

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