Central Flying Service Still Aloft After 75 Years

by Brandon Riddle  on Monday, Jul. 7, 2014 12:00 am  

“The influence was tremendous,” Don Holbert said. “I got the privilege of working with him side by side for 11 years.”

Claud Holbert retired as president of Central Flying in 1975 and became chairman of the board, a title he held until 1981. Holbert was senior pilot examiner in the U.S. before his death in March 1983 and spent more than 50,000 flight hours in the air, an achievement that few pilots have accomplished. At the age of 73, he was the oldest pilot examiner administering Federal Aviation Administration flight tests.

One moment in particular stands out for Dick Holbert: the time his father taught him the trick to stalls, an anxiety-inducing moment for at least one Holbert in the aircraft. Stalls, the result of insufficient airspeed, increase the angle of flight in a manner that could cause the aircraft to lose its lift.

Holbert said his father’s legs were casually crossed and his back propped against the side of the aircraft as his son attempted a maneuver to regain control of the aircraft. “He was as relaxed as you could imagine,” Holbert said. “I remember thinking, ‘I can’t believe you’re so calm.’”

One poignant take-away Holbert had about his father from the experience: “He was such a consummate instructor, whether I knew it at the time or not.”

Don Holbert also recalled a moment early in his flight training when, at the age of 14, he returned from military school for spring break and expressed interest in flying independently for the first time.

“The weather was sloppy and the last day of the vacation, the sun came out,” Don Holbert recalls. His next thought: “I want to go solo.” His father’s response: go ahead.

Claud, Dick and Don Holbert have each made their way into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame.

Although the brothers don’t fly anymore, they are active in the aviation market and have plans to stick with the company for quite some time, carrying on the family legacy. “I don’t have any plans to retire,” Don Holbert said. “When you’re doing something you like to do, you stick with it.”

Now in its third generation, the family business has Claud Holbert’s grandchildren helming key aspects: Dick’s children Valerie Holbert Wayne, director of design and marketing, and Taylor Holbert, director of line service and operations; and Don’s son Steve Holbert, IT manager. Steve’s wife, Susan, is Central Flying’s CFO.

Despite its family history, Don Holbert admits the fourth generation, still in its youth, has been worrying him. “I just don’t see the interest,” he said.

The Holbert family boasts firsts in Arkansas with Central Flying, primarily introducing the first turbo prop charter, jet charter, turbine-powered helicopter, turbine maintenance structure and first jet sale into the state.



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