Jack C. Turley, 48, piloted Army and police helicopters

October 11, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Jack C. Turley, a former Vietnam combat helicopter pilot who was later a Baltimore police officer in the helicopter unit and taught other officers to pilot the law enforcement aircraft from 1980 to 1985, died Tuesday of cancer at his Clinton home. He was 48.

"He got the biggest joy out of seeing one of his students go solo," said his wife, the former Camille Branch, whom he married in 1989. They met as she trained for her helicopter pilot's license in 1985.

"He enjoyed the challenge, the precision and the freedom of flying," she said.

A quiet, unassuming man who friends and relatives said felt equally at ease in the air and on the ground, Mr. Turley was licensed to pilot helicopters and airplanes.

Mr. Turley trained 15 city police and Maryland State Police pilots, and more than 2,000 commercial pilots for American Airlines, United Airlines, Trans World Airlines, Central State Airlines and Air Los Angeles.

He also trained pilots for Canadian, Japanese and Brazilian commercial airlines and logged more than 9,000 flight hours.

"He was at home in the air," said Wayne Cromwell, a former pilot and friend. "He was adept in flying anything that could fly. He was equally adept teaching. Most people can do one or the other; he did both."

Sgt. Larry Lester of the city helicopter unit said Mr. Turley fit into the police unit well and performed admirably.

"He was a very quiet person at first who eventually worked up to being a training officer for us," Sergeant Lester said.

Mr. Turley was considered a highly skilled and confident pilot -- and somewhat flamboyant, his wife said.

While in the police helicopter unit, which has a landing pad atop the 12-story police headquarters building downtown, Mr. Turley would sometimes lift off, then descend several stories past the VTC offices of the workers on the top floors before rising.

"You'd be sitting in your office and bang, bang, bang, it would come down past your window," Mrs. Turley said. "But he knew what he was doing."

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Mr. Turley studied aviation at the Florida Institute of Technology, where he graduated in the 1970s.

He entered the Army in 1967 and was an aircraft mechanic and technical inspector before becoming a pilot in 1969. From 1969 to 1972, he was a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Bronze Star and six other medals.

He was in the Army Reserve until 1988, stationed at the old Weide Army Airfield in Aberdeen.

From the mid-1970s until his death, Mr. Turley piloted charter tours for Craine Air Inc., a Clinton business he owned and operated.

Mr. Turley was a member of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association and supported the Potomac chapter of the International Organization of Women Pilots, 99s based in College Park.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. today at the Lee Funeral Home, 6633 Old Alexander Ferry Road in Clinton.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Christopher Turley of Columbia; his father, Floyd Turley of West Bend, Ky.; five brothers, Thomas Turley, Bruce Turley and Michael Turley, all of West Bend, Floyd Turley Jr. of Burlington, N.J., and Calvin Brewer of Elmira, N.Y.; three sisters, Alice-styne Adams and Linda Turley, both of West Bend, and Lisa Turley of San Antonio; and three grandchildren.

Pub Date: 10/11/98

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