Charlie Hillard

Portrait of Young Charlie Hillard


Early Life

Charlie Hillard had the mark of a highly determined individual very early in life. Charlie was born on March 22, 1938 in Fort Worth, Texas. At ten years old, he went to work for his dad, "King" Charlie Hillard, dusting cars on the family car lot for $10 a week. Young Charlie Hillard had a plan. By the age of 16, his plan was turning into reality as he had saved enough money to secretly learn to fly, making his first solo flight that year. Then, as a freshman at Georgia Tech, Charlie purchased his first airplane, a Piper Cub.



At 18, he mastered skydiving and again proving his fierce determination, earned a place on the U.S. Skydiving team just 2 years later in 1958. That year, he placed second at the "Coupe du Monde" in Paris. That same summer, Charlie began building his list of firsts, as he was the very first person in the U.S. to pass a baton in free-fall.



Charlie then began concentrating solely on precision aerobatic flying and in that same year that he made headlines with his free-fall baton pass, he began amazing audiences at airshows. He won the National Championship in 1967 and represented the U.S. in four world championships. In 1972, Charlie made America proud, as he was the first American to ever win the world aerobatic title.



In 1971, Charlie partnered with Gene Soucy and Tom Poberezny to form the Red Devils Aerobatic Team flying Pitts Specials. They flew their first show at the National Aerobatic Championships that year with Charlie flying the Spinks Akromaster, a plane that he had designed and built. That performance was the beginning of a world-class formation team that would take precision aerobatic flight to new and amazing heights.

Eagles Aerobatic Flight Team Logo

Each year the Red Devils became more popular and requests for performances grew. In 1979, Charlie, Gene and Tom made their debut as the Eagles Aerobatic Flight Team with Charlie as lead pilot. Through the years and the more than 1,000 worldwide awe-inspiring exhibitions, the Eagles became synonymous with precision aerobatic perfection. The team that made up the Eagles flew for more than 25 years and to this day hold the record for the longest running aerobatic team, both civilian and military, in the history of the world.

Lone Star Fury Logo

In 1996, with more than 15,000 flying hours to his credit, Charlie made the decision to embark on the next exciting phase of his incredible career. With his Hawker Fury, a high-performance, fixed-wing monoplane producing upwards of 2,600 horsepower, Charlie would take to the skies as a solo stunt pilot.



Throughout his life, Charlie was recognized many times for his aerobatic excellence, including the International Council of Air Show's Wilkinson Sword of Excellence Award and induction into the International Aerobatics Hall of Fame. While Charlie was truly key to the advancement of precision aerobatics, he was also a significant contributor to his community. Charlie was at the helm of the expansion from a single Ford franchise to one of the most successful auto parks in the U.S., winning virtually every customer satisfaction award in the industry. Serving on various boards and committees, Charlie was particularly devoted to family causes such as the Texas Motor Speedway Children's Charities.



To the people who knew and loved Charlie R. Hillard, this was no surprise, as it was well understood that at the very core of this remarkable man, who regularly soared to heights not often reached or even imagined by others, was his limitless love and dedication to home and his family.

Portrait of Older Charlie Hillard
Charlie Hillard
1938 - 1996

Where Dreamers Fly

One never regrets chasing a dream
Or soaring with the North Star guide.
There is no fault with those who fail.
The shame is never having tried.

For the rare ones born with a skyward eye,
who scan the heavens without a sound,
To insist they dwell on earthly planes
is like chaining an Eagle to the ground.

Heroes are they who pursue their vision
which started back with chart-papered walls
and models fashioned by imaginative hands,
ignoring all other sensible calls.

It's in their hearts and in their blood.
There is naught else that they can say.
And, tho' faced with sacrifice and tears,
They'd have it none other way.

'Tis not for them to clip their wings.
With arm-chair jockeys, they'd not trade.
It's the fury and danger that lures them on,
even when the bitterest price is paid.

Somewhere, in a place unseen by man...
out there, between horizon and sky,
exists a level of lofty clouds
where dreamers dare to fly.

by Virginia Bennett
April 18, 1996

Hillard Aviation Logo