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Supported and guided his nephew into a career in aviation: Clint Swan

Clint Swan
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Clint Swan – Award was presented by nephew John Holmes

When I think of a hero of aviation I can only see Clinton Swan deserving of this award, not me.  He sacrificed his resources, energy and most of all time, to impart to me the love of aviation.  He gave so that I could achieve my dreams. 

My work today is doing what I love; fly and teach.  Warm memories accompany me in the cockpit, when I fly over the beautiful State of Iowa.  I tune familiar radio frequencies at 35,000 feet, remembering the days when I would search the sectional chart for them at 1,500 feet.  I always think of the man who was instrumental in my start; Clinton Swan.

Is it possible that my love of flying began with the near dare devil stunts preformed by my twenty something Uncle Clint Swan? Unable to see the ground out of the plane's side window, Clint would severely bank the plane to give me, his pre-school age nephew, a great view of grandpa's farm near Centerville, Iowa. Together we were on top of the world in the 1946 Aeronca-Model 7 Champ.

I was the one that was determined to bring a dog home to grandpa to replace the one that had died. Only problem was Grandpa despised hound dogs and the new pup was part hound. Because of Grandpa’s kindness towards me, ‘Brownie’got to stay and followed grandpa everywhere. This dog was so smart that when a plane was off in the distance, barely able to be heard, Brownie would sit up, cock his head, listening carefully to determine if the plane was Clint's. If it wasn't he paid it no more attention and went back to sleep but oh if the plane was Clint's the game was on. Between the house and the barn there was enough space for Clint to fly in low between the buildings, doing this three times or so chasing Brownie and creating quite a stir on the farm. On one of these days when Clint was being his mischievous self with his brother in the plane, he was chasing Brownie and I was on the ground with Grandma. The engine stalled and the Aeronca Champ went down a short distance from the house. I raced to grandma telling her Uncle Clint and Uncle Kenneth are sure to be dead. Not knowing what to expect we walked towards the spot I last saw the plane. Coming upon Kenneth still in one piece, Grandma started her sermon about that plane worrying her and she was sure she was going to lose both sons to a crash yet. Clint is positive I never knew Grandma could say some of the things she did and oh my how she went on when Clint came over the hill and buzzed us in the plane. 

Flying continued for Clint in the same Aeronca Champ he still has today, now some 50 years later. It was in this plane that I was eager to spend time with Clint soaking up all the information that was given to me on planes and life. By the time I was in high school Clint knew I could go far if I continued in the direction I was going. Clint had a good relationship with the manager of the Ottumwa Airport and with Clint's aid I presented myself well enough to earn a job washing and fuelling planes and doing other work.

During these years I continued to turn to Uncle Clint, seeking his thoughts and wisdom on taking the next steps to complete my dream of being a commercial pilot. Clint and another family member who worked for American Airlines urged me to apply for one of the many job openings available at that time with American.

My early training and direction from my Uncle Clint has come full circle. Every two years I return to Centerville, Iowa and take to the sky with Uncle Clint to complete his Bi-annual flight review certification as a pilot. The roles are reversed but what greater pleasure can there be for the two of us as we share these moments. Together we are still flying the 46 Aeronca Model 7 Champ.

Inspiration comes in a variety of forms. Many of us look to famous artists, intellectuals, entertainers and world leaders in search of ways to help us think, create, problem-solve and achieve. Yet, even the most famous and respected figures rely on personal mentors and heroes who are often a friend, teacher, or family member--an ordinary person whose wisdom, guidance and support has inspired them to achieve the extraordinary.

It is with great pleasure today that we honor Clint Swan as a Transportation Hero by Example for the role he played in providing positive influence, support and unending love to me, his nephew. 

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