It is with great sorrow that that I am posting this. Around noon today, we received a telephone call from the son of a very close family friend. Morgan Hetrick, of Heifer Creek Airport and Ranch, Springfield AR, was horribly injured in a fire following a general aviation aircraft incident at the HCAR this morning approximately 0900CST. I just received the phone call (2047CST) to let me know of his passing.
He went the way he wanted to go. He loved flying more than life itself. On many occasions he stated that life was not worth living if he could not fly.
William Morgan Hetrick came into this world on 7 December 1931. When he was about 12 years old, he bought a motorcycle to run his paper route with. His parents and grandparents were uneasy with him riding this contraption, and offered Morgan a deal he could not refuse. They would help him buy an airplane if he would just get rid of that scary two-wheeled menace. At the tender age of 14, William Morgan Hetrick was a captive of flight. He has since flown everything non-military that flies, from gliders to commercial jets and everything in between. Fixed wing single and multi-engine, rotorcraft, jets, turbo-props, motor gliders, sail planes, experimental aircraft of all stripes. And some things that he has flown, he would not say much about.
Morgan flew for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. He was Richard Nixon’s private pilot before Nixon became president. Glen Campbell was best man at Morgan’s wedding. He imported exotic animals from Africa and South America. He was a test pilot for Bill Lear, and holds multiple STCs (the aircraft equivalent of a patent) including one for an anti-skid braking system for aircraft. He was qualified to instruct students on any civilian aircraft, commercial or experimental or homebuilt. He restored and rebuilt, with the utmost love and respect for the machine, many antique aircraft. One was a 1928 Travel Air 4000.
Morgan’s love of flying was shared with his students and apprentices. Nothing delighted him more than to watch a first solo flight.
There is no way to determine the influence Morgan has had in everyone who was ever fortunate enough to intersect his life. He will be sorely missed by all. Those who where fortunate enough to participate in his life will keep Morgan’s memory alive every time they take off a grass strip or tighten the brake lines on the landing gear.
Grizz and I were some of the more fortunate ones, as we were granted the privilege of living and working with Morgan and his wife Joyce at Heifer Creek Airport and Ranch. We will miss him terribly.
We send our best wishes to his family and friends in their time of loss.
Our thoughts are also with the survivors of the incident, David Howlett, Bill Welshman, and a minor whose name cannot be released at this time. All three will recover physically, but the emotional loss will take longer to heal.
Blessings to all, the Hayhurst Family