Originally created 04/29/00

Ceremony will honor aviators



Two young brothers reared in a small Tennessee town on the Mississippi River 70 years ago didn't fathom the impact their lives' work would have on the world of aviation.

Willis "Buster" Boshears and his brother Forrest were two boys who were merely fascinated with Army planes that landed near their Tiptonville home.

The two men who created an aviation school in the Augusta area in the 1940s and instructed thousands of pilots from around the world will be honored posthumously today as inductees of Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame.

The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame ceremony will be 6 p.m. at the Century of Flight Hangar Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins.

"They were a part of a group of people in Georgia that kept general aviation alive in the 1950s," said Willis Boshears Jr., who is now the manager of Daniel Field Airport.

His father and uncle shared their fascination for flying with Mr. Boshears.

"His log book starts when he was age 6. His Uncle Forrest had to put cushions behind him so that he could reach the rudders," said Betty Holmes, who worked with the Boshears since the 1940s. "Forrest did well with a lot of people."

Ms. Holmes, who is also a licensed pilot, studied with the Boshears brothers as well.

"Buster always said a woman made just as good a student as a man," she said. "He was very inspiring in a lot of ways."

Mr. Boshears managed Augusta Aviation Inc. -- the family's business -- until the flight school was sold to Augusta businessman Steve Gay, its present owner, in 1990.

The Boshears legacy was not rooted in aviation. Both brothers retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, having worked as project inspectors for decades. Willis Boshears Sr. was transferred to the Augusta district to conduct routine inspections on the then- newly constructed Savannah Lock and Dam in 1935. Augusta was his home until he died at age 71 in 1981.

While he served in the Corps, Willis Boshears Sr. fulfilled a childhood dream on the side. He learned to fly a single-engine Piper Cub aircraft.

"My father taught my uncle how to fly," Mr. Boshears said.

Mr. Boshears and a local pilot named Ernest Williams started a flight training school at a small airport on Shultz Hill in North Augusta in 1940. Two years later, Mr. Boshears decided to resign from the Corps and make aviation his full-time job.

His brother Forrest came to Augusta and joined the company before a pivotal point in United States and Boshears history.

"All of aviation took off after World War II," Mr. Boshears said. "During the war, my father ran one of those civilian pilot-training programs the government has. They taught people to fly who would then go into the military. Civilian schools were set up all of over the country."

The two Boshears served the country as civilians during the Vietnam and Korean wars, Mr. Boshears said.

Those conflicts would create a need for flight training that the Boshears school offered. The school taught thousands of soldiers who would become pilots , Mr. Boshears said.

Primarily, the brothers are credited with keeping the aviation industry alive in Georgia even after the need began to dissipate.

"When that GI Bill training program ended, it caused some hard economic times on the aviation industry."

The Boshears brothers were nominated for the award -- given only to Georgia residents -- in 1995, four years after inductee Forrest Boshears died at age 76. "I knew that they were being considered. I think that it is a big honor," Mr. Boshears said.

The induction is added to an 8-year-old Augusta tradition started to celebrate the accomplishments of the Boshears brothers.

Each September, the Boshears Memorial Fly-In features aerobatics and aerial demonstrations at Augusta's Daniel Field Airport.

"I feel fortunate to have worked for the Boshears all of my life," Ms. Holmes said. "The funny thing about the Boshears is that they taught people to fly, and then their children came along and taught people to fly. ... For over a half century they taught aviation."

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851 or cjwalker@augustachronicle.com.