Volunteer Spotlight - Terry Edwards
A Pilot of Passion and a Lifetime of Devotion to Aviation
On any given Tuesday, Terry Edwards can be seen giving tours to anyone who walks into the 1940 Air Terminal Museum. Visitors quickly recognize his vast knowledge about the Museum and especially his first love – flying.
Terry was born to fly – and he will share his experiences and life lessons with anyone who will listen. Recently, we talked to Terry about his more than 50 years as a private and commercial pilot.
When did you begin your interest and career as a pilot?
"I was born interested in aviation. My elder sister used to describe me as crawling through a screen door even before I could walk, to go outside and look at an airplane as it flew overhead. I always knew I wanted to be a pilot. I just wanted to fly. Most of the airplanes I saw growing up were light aircraft.
I was in junior high school when I started reading my first flying magazines, including Air Progress. I joined the Civil Air Patrol in the ninth grade as a cadet and took my first plane ride when I was a junior in a Cessna 172, which is nearly identical to the one the Museum has. From then on, I was hooked. A few weeks later, I was hired at Guinn Flying Service at the old Pearland Airport, and for every day I worked, I received an hour of dual flight instruction in a Cessna 150. By the time I was a high school senior, I was already a private pilot."
Having a pilot's license proved to be a big advantage when he started dating. Terry recalls one of his escapades in high school. "When I dated young ladies, we would "go out to dinner," I would take them out to the airport, fly over to another airport that had a restaurant, get something to eat and fly home. Of course, the girl's parents never found out!"
Who was your role model as a pilot?
"I had two role models. One of them is teaching at West Houston Lakeside Airport, Hank Henry and my other role model was Chuck Smith, who passed away a few years ago. Hank is a former test pilot and Chuck was a naval aviator during World War II flying the Corsair Fighter Aircraft."
Did you experience any challenges as a young aviator?
"I was not a natural when it came to flying. I had to work at it. But over time, I got to be where I was pretty good. During my pilot training, I did something flying I had never experienced before and it scared me. When I got back to the airport, I was talking with my instructor and he asked me if I had ever seen a spin before. I told him no. We went back up in the plane and he put me into a spin and when we recovered, I told him that is what I did earlier that scared me. He asked "how did you know what to do to get out of it?" I said I don't know, I guess I was just lucky. I would try something and that would not work and I would try something different. So my first spin was solo."
Why did you decide to become a commercial airline pilot?
"When I was a kid, you did usually not get to become an airline pilot unless you had military experience. In the 1960's and 1970's, the airline had so many former military pilots to choose from, they did not hire many people who were not trained in the military. After spending six years in the Army and nearly three years in Vietnam, I took advantage of the Tuition Assistance Program while I was in active duty to get additional ratings. I worked my way through college by using the GI Bill and being a flight instructor to make ends meet. In the beginning, I did not have a desire to fly for the airlines. My ambition was to be a corporate pilot or start a business flying an airplane.
After retiring from the Army, I returned to Houston with my sons and became a flight instructor again. Soon after, I got a job as an air cargo pilot for a few years and later applied for a pilot's job when I was 54 years old with ExpressJet and they hired me."
What is your most memorable experience as a pilot?"Shortly after I received custody of my two boys, something I will never forget happened. Now my sons knew I was a pilot, but they did not know I was still flying. One day, a friend and I took the boys out to the airport. My friend and I were in the front seat and the boys where in the back. I told them we were going to just taxi the plane from one hanger to another. But when we took off and I saw the expression of shock and joy on their faces, it was a great feeling."
Why Is the 1940 Air Terminal Museum important to you?
The Museum is important because I don't think our younger children are being taught history adequately. If you look at YouTube videos, and when asked when was the War of 1812, some of them say World War II. Many kids don't understand history. Last summer, several groups of children toured the Museum. Some of them were very excited about aviation and the questions they asked, I was overwhelmed that children so young were excited about flying. That to me is very rewarding."
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about a career as a pilot or in aviation?
"Don't let anybody tell you no. If you want to do something, I don't care who you are, strive to do it. If you work hard enough to accomplish it, there will be people out there who will help you achieve your goals. If it had not been for someone from the Civil Air Patrol who gave me a ride, it would have taken me longer to become a pilot."