Bob and Kim Showalter Oral History Interview

Bob and Kim Showalter Oral History Interview

Created: November 23, 2015

Listen as Showalter Flying Service owners Bob and Kim Showalter share the history of the aviation company and our community in this oral history interview at Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Executive Airport on January 14, 2015.

LISTEN Part I (18:42) LISTEN Part II (16:46)

Would you please tell us your name and where you were born?

Bob Showalter was born in Orlando, Florida, 67 years ago.

Kim Showalter was born in Puerto Rico at the end of 1948.


Showalter Aero School, an operation of Showalter Corporation, opened for flight instruction at Sanford Municipal Airport in October 1948.

You both have pilot’s licenses, you both fly?

B: Yes, we both fly. By the way Kim’s dad was in the Air Force that’s why she was in Puerto Rico. She was an Air Force brat. She was all over the place as she grew up. And, yes, we both have pilot’s licenses. Kim doesn’t fly actively. I still do.

K: I learned to fly because it was free, Jane, and it seemed like such a waste not to learn to fly. And I always say if anything happened to our pilot I could get us down safely and we’d walk away.

B: And she could.

So did you learn to fly here? Showalter Flying Service.

K: I did with some of the best flight instructors anywhere.


Elmer Mackey instructs students in ground school at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.


Showalter Flight Instructor Bryant Bouslog in the cockpit at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

What plane did you start in?

K: Oh, I started in a Cherokee 140, a Piper Cherokee 140 and I soloed in a 182, an Aero. I got my license in the Cherokee Aero, a 182. And then I had to go out and I learned to do some spins and stalls in our Piper J-3 Cub, a tail dragger. So that was my early experience.


The Showalter Flying Service Piper Cherokee Display in front of Jordan Marsh store at the Colonial Plaza Mall, circa 1967.

B: Well, I am just shy of 21,000 hours in the air. I first started flying when I was eight on a couple of boat cushions that dad would bring along so I could see out the window.


The future leader of Showalter Flying Service, Bob Showalter, seated on the cushion top left, next to Paul Wagner, Jr. Rollins College President Paul Wagner, center, with Howard Showalter, right, and family. Photo circa 1950.

And as I got taller I went to one seat cushion and then on my 16th birthday which is the first day it’s legal to do it I soloed five different airplanes that morning and I got my driver’s license in the afternoon.

So what airplanes did you solo?

B: I soloed a Piper Cub, a Piper Colt, a Piper Tri-Pacer, a Cherokee 150, and a Cherokee 180 on that morning.


Local sportsman, David J. McCreery, with his Piper Tri-Pacer he purchased from Showalter Flying Service.

Was that the best day of your life?

K: Oh, it better not be.

B: It’s one of them, certainly. I tell you no one forgets the day they solo an airplane, ever.


Student pilot, David Brice, age 16, soloed at Showalter Airpark on September 3, 1957.

It’s the opposite of people who always know where they were when something awful happened. But, they’ll always remember the day they flew by themselves for the first time.


Lyman Huntington is the first to solo in the Experimental Cross Country Private Pilot Course offered at Showalter Airpark, January 15, 1951.

The plane flies much better without the instructor in it then it did with the two of you. Because most people learn to fly in a small airplane and with more weight in it, it struggles. And then when the instructor’s gone it just really flies great. But it’s still a little scary too because you’re the only one that can do it right.

And this was at Winter Park [Showalter Airpark] that you soloed?

B: No, I soloed here at what was then called Herndon Airport, now Orlando Executive.


Aerial view of Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, 1961.

Was your father alive at the time?

B: Yes, my dad died in 1965. I soloed September 6, 1963. Most people have 15 to 20 hours when they solo. I had been flying. I had a couple hundred hours when I soloed because I went all over the eastern United States with the flight instructors. I’d go with them to pick up a new airplane at the factory in Pennsylvania. I was a hitchhiker and I still am. I’ll go anywhere anytime.

So your dad was there when you soloed?

B: Oh, absolutely he was there. Dad was in great health. Dad died at the beach in October of 1965 which is scary that it’s going to be 50 years ago this year.


Howard Showalter awarded the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission's bronze medal and citation for heroism, article June 6, 1966.

He spotted a kid that was caught in the rip tide and went out after him. Interestingly, he had been trained by Fleet Peeples whose name popped up several times this year. He was in a scout troop and he was a life guard. He had been trained as a life guard and he went out and got that little boy. Some folks on the beach went down the beach and found a life guard and came out and got a life guard. And the life guard swam out and took the little boy which is what he should have done. Dad was just too tired to make it back. They made an autopsy on him. He didn’t have any heart attacks or anything. He just drowned.


And that was like I said, 50 years ago.


Sandy Showalter, Buck Rogers, and Howard Showalter at Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Municipal Airport, circa 1958.

At the time the three folks that started this business were my dad, he was the president, my uncle, his brother, and their first cousin. The three of them started the business. When dad died, they each owned a life insurance policy on each other that enabled the other two to buy the share out from my mother. So 1965 they bought mom out. I was a freshman in college and eight years, almost nine years later, my uncle offered Kim and I the opportunity to go into debt for the rest of our lives – until next week – and buy his half of the flying service. It was as a result of the longtime aircraft salesman who had died at an early age of cancer, leaving no one at the business who was very sales oriented. My uncle was a silent partner. My cousin Buck was the gentleman running the business and Buck was not a salesman. Sandy knew that I had that tendency of salesmanship. And so they thought I’d be a good fit.


Bob Showalter and Buck Rogers at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, 1974.

So Kim and I bought Sandy out in 1973 and we later bought Buck out. [We] began to buy Buck out in ’77. So we’ve been under the whole place since then.

The business has really made aviation history for generations and it’s cited in a number of books. For instance, in Aviation in Florida they mention: "Also in Winter Park was the Showalter Airpark, established by Howard and Sandy Showalter and Buck Rogers in 1945... The airpark became the base for the Showalter Flying Service, recognized as one of the nation's best fixed-base operators (FBOs)...." Wings in the Sun: A History of Florida Aviation states, "The Showalter Airpark owned and operated by the Showalter brothers at Winter Park is one of the finest privately owned airports in the United States." Orlando: a centennial history notes: “Orlando’s position as the air center of Florida was spurred early in January of 1948 with the announcement that the Showalter Corporation had purchased the Raymond Aviation Company at the municipal airport."


Lee and Howard Showalter at Showalter Airpark, circa 1950.

B: Well, we’ve been very fortunate to be in a good place at a great time. Orlando Executive Airport today is as fine an agency as you can ask for in this country. It’s a great spot. It’s right across from downtown and it’s got great facilities. You know not just Showalter, but we’re called “fixed based operators.” FBO is the shorthand. A good FBO can be incredibly important to the community it lives in.


Showalter Flying Service welcomes people to Orlando, Herndon Airport, circa 1960.

And the reason that is, is that we are the first impression of folks flying a private aircraft into a town.


Howard Showalter, Jr. with Dick Pope, Sr. at Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Municipal Airport, circa 1960.

Now that man or woman flying into town may be looking to put a new regional office for their large corporation.


Tupperware Learjet flying over downtown Orlando, circa 1970.

They may be looking to relocate their business. And the first impression and the last impression of the city is the FBO’s job. And a properly run and well financed and clean FBO can really make a difference. And, I guess, if we’re famous for anything it’s that we have had a remarkable run of friendly people that work for us. We don’t hire them if they can’t be outgoing. We play with the customers occasionally any chance we get. And we have the cleanest bathrooms in the country.


Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport in Orlando, Florida was awarded the NBAA Aviation Service Organization Commendation Certificate for outstanding service to business aviation as reported in the National Business Aircraft Association Report, Vol. XVII, No. 3, April 1979.

That’s fantastic. And you have, I would guess, with the flying community, it’s pretty close knit.


Don McCallister of the "Hunting and Fishing with Don" television show is shown here with Showalter Flying Service Instructor Bryant Bouslog, circa 1968.

K: It’s very small, relatively speaking. It’s a very small community.

So you have those general aviation enthusiasts that everyone knows if something doesn’t go right, everyone’s going to know. And you [Showalter Flying Service] have a sterling reputation. You probably sometimes have famous people that maybe make who they are known or not known. Right?

Showalter Flies Bourke-White for LIFE Magazine to Orlando. VIEW.


Sandy Showalter, Howard Showalter Jr. and Buck Rogers with LIFE magazine at Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Municipal Airport.

B: In many cases they don’t want to be known.

K: I would say most of the time they choose to come here very, very quietly. And our company policy is that we leave them alone. Our employees know you don’t ask for pictures, you don’t ask for autographs. They deserve to have any amount of anonymity we can give them. We have a little more trouble controlling our customers when they see famous people. I always feel sorry for Shaquille O’Neal because he can’t be anonymous. When you’re seven foot something and you where a size 22 shoe you can’t be anonymous. It’s really difficult. But we have a lot of customers that choose to be anonymous. I remember eight or nine years ago our son, just has an office across the hall and, he came down to my office and he said, “Mom, there is a guy in our pilot’s lounge just sitting reading a book by himself. He is a dead ringer for Colin Powell.” I said, “But, Sandy, it is Colin Powell.” And he was here by himself, chose to be alone, didn’t sit in the lobby where everybody else was. And we see that a lot.


Art Linkletter at Showalter Flying Service, circa 1960's.

B: We’ve actually had airplanes land that we’ve pulled inside a hangar and closed the doors before the people that are in the airplane get out and get into a limousine with dark windows. Then we open the door to the hangar and they leave. And so no one knows they’re there. We used to have a famous rock star that’s no longer with us do that often, and that would be, Michael Jackson. We used to do that for him on occasion.

K: Well, it’s our job. It’s what we do. It’s providing a service to the public and they’re the public just like anybody else is.


Max Baer's note to Buck Rogers at Showalter Flying Service, 1951. 'Buck, Thanks for flying me on time. Your pal with the long legs plus 250 lbs. - Max Baer, 10/27/51.' Baer became known for his role as Jethro Bodine in The Beverly Hillbillies.

And they deserve whatever it is we can give them. And so we see so many very famous people come through here. And it’s always refreshing to see the ones that just choose to be. They don’t choose to be famous, they don’t choose to be treated differently.


World famous aviator Max Conrad hosing a Piper Comanche at Showalter Flying Service at Orlando Municipal Airport, circa 1950's.

They choose to be ordinary people. And I imagine they don’t get that opportunity very often.

Comedian Dick Smothers and Flight Instructor Romie Miller, Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1960's.

B: I think if I’ve learned anything all these years I’ve learned that I don’t want to be a celebrity. I remember Michael J. Fox running in our lobby being chased by a bunch of groupies from Back to the Future days with their model cars that looked like Back to the Future cars and I hid him here in my office. He has no life outside of very private behind walls kind of thing. Who wants to live like that?


Comedian Pat Paulsen with his groupies at Showalter Flying Service, circa 1970.

K: We got very good at, I’m not going to say ‘lying’ because I think that, somehow it’s looked upon as stretching the truth or a white lie if you’re doing it for the right reasons. But we would have the press show up often and say, “Well, we’ve gotten wind that somebody’s coming through here. We’ve gotten wind that something big is about to happen."


Walter Cronkite of CBS News at Showalter Flying Service, Herndon Airport, circa 1960's.

And sometimes we know and sometimes we honestly don’t. But most of the time if we know we’re really good at denying. It’s just so much easier to try to throw people off the scent and let these people or groups, sometimes it’s an entire band or an entire band of directors for something comes through here so you’re often times not deflecting for just one person.

Classical concert pianist Van Cliburn and his mother at Showalter Flying Service, Herndon Airport, circa 1961.

B: When Jimmy Buffet’s got a concert in Orlando they start lurking around the fences here to see if he’s going to come through here.


Governor Carl Sanders of Georgia at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1960's. Sanders served as governor of Georgia from 1963-1967.

K: The political season is just gearing up. We have had times when we have had two different politicians same party sometimes, but running for a nomination and they will either schedule something here at the airport at the same time or you have some that will kind of choose to create a disturbance while the other one is speaking to the media.


Florida Governor Haydon Burns at Showalter Flying Service, Orlando Municipal Airport, January 1965. Haydon Burns, the 35th Governor of Florida served from January 5, 1965 to January 3, 1967. Prior to politics and his WWII service as an aeronautical specialist, Burns earned his pilot's license and operated a flying school.

So we sort of physically separate them.


Senator Ed Gurney using the phone at Showalter Flying Service, circa 1970. Gurney, a Winter Park Republican, served in the U. S. Senate from 1969 to 1974.

People don’t understand that this is a private business and they say, “But, it’s open to the public.” We lease the property, but it is private property. So we can ask the people to move off and we do. But you hear them catcalling in the background as someone is on the ramp with the press doing their quick stop outside their airplane on to their next press gig when they’re running for, lots of times it’s presidential races. So we’re getting into, just starting into what we call as the silly season again.


U. S. Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz at Showalter Flying Service, circa 1967.

So, speaking a little bit of politics, in terms of our nation’s history, your company, your father, received a thank you letter from the Colonel of the United States Air Force for a service you all provided during the Cuban Missile Crises. And it says that, “Mr. Howard Showalter, operator of Showalter Flying Service, responded immediately when advised of our situation and provided us with excellent temporary facilities at Herndon Municipal Airport.” Do you remember it?


Herndon Airport during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962.

B: I do remember it. People that lived in Florida certainly Central and South Florida during the Cuban Missile Crises will never forget it. The rest of the country certainly knew about it, but here it was everywhere. The streets were covered with tanks and armored vehicles, and tan, big old military trucks and convoy after convoy and the airport, what is now Orlando International Airport was then Pine Castle Air Force Base. It was covered with airplanes. What our part was, or my dad’s part was, that they base some U2 spy planes here, three of them. Because the runways, in fact, all the bases in Florida, none of their big runways favored into the wind. And the long wings on the U2 spy plane favored that they be able to land almost directly into the wind. Our runway here was very good at being the 90% favoring directionally into the wind here, 70 degrees, almost East, and so the Air Force operated their U2’s here for not a long period of time, I think it was probably three weeks, two to three weeks. But it was fascinating. Each airplane had three MP type security guards with machine guns and German Shepherds. They had three German Shepherds and three MP’s on each airplane. We had no hangar big enough to hold them. Their wingspan, in fact, I think today, I’m not sure we have a hangar. We might have one hangar that could hold a U2 today. Because the wing is so, so wide. But, we certainly didn’t then, and so, they were outside in the weather. But they were also, there was a lot more security around for a few weeks at our place then.

LISTEN Part II (16:46)

Well, really it seems throughout the history of your company and your family that you all continue to contribute to the community and that has been that way always hasn’t it? I guess maybe that’s a family ethic?

K: I think probably. I think it’s a responsibility. We take a lot from the community. They provide us with a lot. And I think it’s very important where you have the gifts and graces to give back. And we’re very lucky. Bob and myself and our children have very different talents and it enables us to kind of spread ourselves out a little bit in the things we choose to become involved in and it is a responsibility for us to give back.


Bob Showalter was elected Director of the National Air Transportation Association, a 900 member organization of aviation enterprise executives, Sun Herald, Friday, April 17, 1980.

A lot has been given to us.


Showalter Flying Service Center Crew, circa 1957.

This area has provided us with the very finest people to come to work that I can’t begin to describe how deeply I feel for the people who have worked here over the years.


Showalter Flying Service Center Crew: Ken Murray, Tony Andrea, Ray Bassett, Bill Maurer, circa 1960.

And each time somebody comes or somebody leaves our personality as a company changes. And our job is always to try to make it better.


"Bud" McGuahey at Showalter Flying Service, Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

It’s always different, but it’s always better. And I can look back over the years at 5 or 6 or 7 periods of time where we have had just truly amazing people choose to come and stay here for a while.


Chester P. Sanders, Showalter Airpark Flight Instructor, started his flight training with the Showalter Corporation in Winter Park in 1949. He used his GI Bill for flight training and in 1951 left Orlando for a position as a co-pilot with Resort Airlines in Texas.

You know we have a young man who flew F-16’s in the Iraq War who was a lineman for us. The gentleman who just retired who was the captain for Air Force One was a lineman for us for several years. I mean we have people, a gentleman who flies now for Delta. And we have people that have gone on because we’ve always told them we’re not the place you need to stop. We’re a good place to be. We’re a good place to get your feet in the door.


Howard Showalter, Buck Rogers, Bob Schutz, Sumner Thomas, Ed Sills, and Ray Jones at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1950's.

We’re a great place to make contacts and meet people. And what we expect from you is the very best you have to give us while you’re here. But we don’t expect this to be the last place you’ll ever go. And thank goodness a lot of them have taken us up on that and they’ve gone to do some wonderful things. Things that we couldn’t even have imagined for them. But, we always laugh and say that people in aviation at some point everybody has worked for Showalter Flying Service. So many of them have come through our doors and we’re so lucky. We still hear from so many of them. We’ll have commercial airline pilots fly over and call us on the radio, and say, “Kim, passing over. Say ‘hi’ to Bob.” And they may have worked here 20 years ago, but we know who they are. We know who they are. And they stay in touch and that’s their gift back to us. We know the wonderful things that they’ve gone off to do.

So it sounds to me like you love living in our community. That you still see Central Florida as being this great place to live.

B: Oh, absolutely. You know our family, the Showalters, this is the 100th anniversary of a Showalter coming here. My grandfather came to Winter Park in 1915 and he was a coal miner, a coal mine operator, let me be clear, in West Virgina. And his wife, my grandmother, was told that she needed to get away from the cold in the winter because of, I don’t know what she had, she lived a long full life, I knew her well. But, at any rate they started spending the winters here in 1915. And the house that floated across Lake Osceola last year was the house they bought from the Capen’s and the Capen’s were one of the founding families from Winter Park, so we go back a long way. My father went to Rollins and I went to Rollins and I met this wonderful woman [Kim Showalter] at Rollins.


K: I went to Rollins. Our daughter graduated from Rollins. His uncle [Bob Showalter’s uncle] graduated from Rollins. His aunt graduated from Rollins. So there’s a long history there.


B: So we’ve gotten a lot out of the community and I hope we’ve added some things. Again, we go back to people that come in the door being important to the city. Walt Disney came through our doors when my dad was still alive. It was 1964 or perhaps early ’65. I don’t remember that, but I remember the day because he came home and said, “I followed Walt Disney all over Florida and lost him down in Kissimmee.”


Ken Murray, Bryant Bouslog, Howard Showalter, Buck Rogers, Romey MIller, and Russ Sheldon of Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

Because he had come out to say, you know, what he’s doing here. And the woman behind the desk was just the right age. She didn’t know who Walt Disney was and he’d used a fake driver’s license so that got my dad pretty interested because back then you didn’t have a picture on your driver’s license, just a piece of paper. But, at any rate, Kim put her finger on it: the greatest joy we’ve had, I think, is watching people grow here and go on. We’ve always tried to hire people on their way somewhere and not somebody who wants to make a career behind the counter of anything.


Wayne Davidson, Interior Designer of Showalter Flying Service photographed at Herndon Airport, circa 1967.

And we’ve been really lucky. We’ve had, so many of them have turned into business people and pilots and fire chiefs and all sorts of interesting things. And, I think, that’s what we’ll miss as we’ve sold the business. We’ll miss some of that. And we’ll also miss some of the other side, employees and issues every day. But, you know, I tell everybody that I get to know better, that I get to know well enough, that I wouldn’t trade places with anybody I’ve ever met. Anybody who has spent much time with me will agree with me. We’ve had a great run. And this airport’s in great shape. The aviation authority’s taken good care of it. Atlantic is a fine operation that’s buying our business. They’re all over the country and I’m sure they’ll bring some synergies and advantages to this city that we could not. And maybe some of the personal touch will disappear because it’s a big business. But, you know, change is what you know is going to happen every day.

K: Change happens every day. What I know is our customers will miss us. I know that. They will miss the things that we were able to do that a large company isn’t able to do. Everyday there were four Showalters in this building. Everyday.


Christmas at Showalter Flying Service, 1957.

And we all knew that our livelihood depended on what we did. I think that enabled us to give service to people that a large company simply can’t. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to it’s that they simply can’t. They can’t replicate what we were able to do. And we laugh when we say they’ll miss us when we’re gone, but I think they will.

Would you tell us about your new business?

B: Well, we’re going to, the best way to put it is we’re going to continue parts of the business. I mentioned to you earlier that my uncle thought I’d make a good fit here because I like to sell things. And so, my son and I, and my son’s an excellent aircraft salesman, Sandy, Sandy’s going to run the business.

The SAM team, from left to right: Bob Showalter, Sandy Showalter, Kim Showalter, and Rachel Haymes. Of course the photo wouldn't be complete without Bennett the airport dog! VIEW.

I’m going to work for him. But we’re going to continue buying and selling airplanes. And we’ve got a lot of customers from all over the world, really, that we’ve had over the years who will either be wanting to change or sell the plane we sold them years ago or get a bigger one or a smaller one or they were happy with the experience they had and they recommend that a friend of theirs talk to us about buying an airplane. So we’d be kind of nuts to walk away from that. You know, we’ve been selling fuel here as our primary business, but nobody ever felt that our gallon of fuel was a lot better than anybody else’s gallon of fuel. Now it was presented well and it was delivered safely and clean and the guy that delivered it was smiling, but that’s one thing.


Dick and Bob Bryant service a plane at Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1965.

But in the aircraft sales we have a lot of loyal customers and I think we would be remiss to turn our back and walk away.


Sheriff Dave Starr, center, and Deputy John Beech accepting delivering of the Sheriff Department's new Piper Comanche from Howard Showalter, President of Showalter Flying Service at Herndon Airport, circa 1960's.

My son enjoys doing it. He’s good at it and I’m going to help him do it. And we’re moving down the street about 200 numbers. We’re at 400 Herndon now, we’re moving to 600 Herndon.

What kind of planes do you sell? Do you sell anything or is it mostly General Aviation?

B: We sell mostly small business aircraft and general aviation airplanes. Most of our business today, our business has changed in the 41 years I’ve been here, it’s changed a lot. When I first got here there were a lot of sort of family airplanes that’s how they got around and that’s got very rare any more. It’s unfortunate that it’s expensive and the fuel’s expensive, the insurance is expensive, and most people rightly so know that if you don’t fly often you shouldn’t. It would be like if you drove your car once every 90 days. You know you try that on 436 you’d get hurt. And so, because it’s so expensive to fly and if you have to fly really often that makes it even worse. So it’s kind of hard for private flyers. But on the other side, business flying has developed incredibly in my 40 years. It’s a tool that enables most businesses to be more successful.


Is it nice to have an airplane? You bet. But it’s often the key to great growth opportunities for many, many businesses.


Highlights of Orlandoans flying for business and pleasure in "It's Big Business - This Private Flying", The Corner Cupboard, May 30, 1957.

We have little single engine airplanes here that service businesses. One is an engineering firm that designs water treatment facilities. They’ve done a lot of work down in Nassau. They’re doing work right now I know in Clearwater and near Miami.
And they fly that little airplane three or four times a week. No golf clubs, no beach towels. It’s a business tool.


And even though I’ve flown my whole life, I’ll have a day where I have to go three or four places around the state and I can do it and be home for dinner. And somebody trying to drive it couldn’t do it in three days. And I will also tell you once you get over the learning, the coordination, it’s kind of like riding your bicycle. Once you learn how to fly, I’d rather fly eight hours than drive an hour. I don’t know about eight hours anymore, but six. It’s like it becomes second nature to someone. When you learn how to do it you keep doing it. It’s a wonderful place. I’ve never gotten tired a second of flying.

So it sounds to me that you see the future in Central Florida as being positive, businesses continuing to grow and come here or you wouldn’t be continuing your business.

B: Absolutely. Well, I mean, we could continue our business lots of places, but this is a great place to be in the airplane business. As an example, if we sell an airplane here, someone might come from California or Colorado to look at it. Well, some of the least expensive airline travel in the world is back and forth to here because of our wonderful tourists destinations and the volume of nonstop flights that we have. So it’s a great place. And, you know, if a guy wants to spend the weekend looking at an airplane, tells his wife he’s going to Orlando, she’s liable to want to go with him and that’s good. So, yeah, we’re all for Orlando.


Aerial view of Orlando Municipal Airport, 1960.

I’m a big proponent of keeping aviation free. This country is the only one in the world that is as free for aviators as this one. I flew a gentleman around the world seven years ago now. We went to 17 countries in 56 days. We went into Dubai, we flew over Iraq, we were in Vietnam, we were in India, we were in China, we were in Japan, Greece. I’m not going in order, but everywhere we went while the transportation infrastructure was safe, the bills, every time we talk on the radio- there’s a bill in Europe, and it’s free here. There are probably 25 airports in this country out of 15,000 that it actually costs you money to land which it does not here. We landed in Vietnam, in Hanoi the landing fee was 10,700 dollars. And the landing fee in Shanghai was about the same and the landing fee in Beijing was about the same. Now, by this time, you can tell I wasn’t paying the bills I was just flying the airplane because I wouldn’t have done it. But the gentleman wanted to do it and he had the ability to do it and it was wonderful that I got a chance to be one of his pilots to do it with him. But, it’s a wonderful country! Aviation has done a lot to make it grow, you know.


General Medaris and Mrs. Medaris at Showalter Flying Service, Orlando Municipal Airport, 1958. As the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Ordnance Missile Command, additional EXPLORER satellites as well as the PIONEER lunar probes were successfully launched by the Army, resulting in significant scientific discoveries. The Army also made significant contributions toward the goal of manned space flight by launching into outer space...

You can fly from Orlando to anywhere in Florida and be back tonight for dinner. If you drive from Key West to Pensacola you’ve gone 80 miles further than if you leave here for NYC. And you can’t do it in a day not in any kind of a reasonable day. And I’m there and back for dinner so it’s a great way to be.

Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that you wanted to mention about your life, your legacy, your family? Is there a plane that you still want to fly that you haven’t flown?

B: Oh, there’s always another airplane that you haven’t flown. But, you know, again I wouldn’t trade places with anybody I’ve ever met. You know this is a great city. The mayor came through here yesterday and I was saying “hi” to him. And we’ve been lucky we’ve had a lot of fine people.


Howard Showalter Jr. and Acting Mayor of Orlando Claude Edwards sign a new contract July 5, 1958 giving Showalter Flying Service a 20 year lease including options on its facilities at Orlando Municipal Airport.

In the scrapbook we were looking at earlier, you’ll see several mayors in that scrapbook.


Hope Strong, prominent Winter Park attorney, shown with his Ercoupe at Showalter Airpark, circa 1946. Hope Strong would later serve as the Mayor of Winter Park from 1981-1987.


Mayor Bob Carr addresses Central Florida business leaders Howard Showalter, center, Sandy Showalter, Bo Swope, Max Conrad, Bill Maurer, Buck McLean, Billy Lee and others at this luncheon, circa 1965.

But, we’ve got good leadership up here. This is a good community and I hope aviation is a part of it as long as my grandchildren should live. I got four grand boys coming up, I expect at least three of them to fly. We’ll find out.


Captain Joe Kittinger at Showalter Flying Service, circa 1960's.

Orlando's Joseph Kittinger, Jr. of 38 W. Yale Street in College Park made aviation history on June 26, 1957 when he set an altitude record for manned lighter-than-air flight in a balloon gondola 95,000 feet over Minnesota.

Interview: Mr. and Mrs. Bob and Kim Showalter

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date: January 14, 2015

Place: Showalter Flying Service, Orlando Executive Airport


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