After packing 5,000 parachutes with care, Arundel man honored

4 Pioneer Awards given for aviation excellence

June 10, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

Talk about a cursed award.

Two years ago, Florence Parlett died a few weeks before the Maryland Aviation Administration could give her its Pioneer Award for founding Lee Airport in Edgewater.

Last week, Aubrey Patterson nearly followed Parlett's footsteps. The longtime parachute packer had a heart attack just before the awards ceremony and was unable to attend.

However, the 81-year-old Glen Burnie resident quickly recovered and spent yesterday afternoon retrieving two more parachutes to be inspected and repacked.

Patterson was honored last week with one of four Maryland Aviation Pioneer Awards, which mark significant contributions to the growth of general aviation, air cargo and passenger service, aircraft manufacturing, aviation safety or airport development in the state.

Other aviation pioneers honored were Thurman S. Alphin of Hagerstown, who restores and repairs airplanes; William S.D. Newnam Jr., who managed Easton's airport for 20 years; and Dundalk's late flight instructor, aircraft mechanic and aviation activist Patrick Romano.

In the aviation industry, Patterson is known as a rigger. In and around Anne Arundel, he is called a friend and invaluable assistant to hundreds of skydivers, aerobatic and experimental plane pilots, and flight schools.

"I never pack a parachute unless I consider that I'm packing this for me, and when you do that, you make very sure that that parachute is absolutely correct," said Patterson.

He figures he has packed about 5,000 parachutes since starting in 1940. In his 61-year career, Patterson has also sewn the multi-paneled pieces together, designed parachutes and been a test-jumper for several new designs.

Patterson is one of 10,459 riggers nationwide and 156 in Maryland certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the latest available figures.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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