May 30, 2004 by

Donald Hinz


Categories: Military

Donald “Pappy” Hinz, a veteran pilot, died on May 29 from injuries he received in a plane crash. He was 60.
A member of the Minnesota Wing Commemorative Air Force, Hinz was performing flybys in an historic airplane during the Wings of Freedom Airshow near Red Wing, Minn., when the aircraft’s engine failed. He initiated an emergency landing and crashed about a mile from the Red Wing Airport. Hinz later died at the hospital; no one else was injured in the accident.
The Woodbury, Minn., resident enlisted in the Navy in 1965. After completing the Nuclear Power Submarine program, he was assigned to work in the nuclear reactor facility in Windsor, Conn. Hinz earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Colorado and a master’s in aerospace science while stationed in Kingsville, Texas. He then became an advance jet instructor pilot, training Naval aviators in the TA4 Skyhawk.
When he left the service, Hinz ran Eagle Sanitation, his own trash hauling business. He also helped restore the rare World War II-era North American P-51C Mustang fighter plane. Considered the signature aircraft of the Tuskegee Airmen, the plane was one of only four P-51C models left in existence. Once its restoration was complete in 2001, the P-51C served as the centerpiece of the Red Tail Project, which honors America’s first black military pilots.

5 Responses to Donald Hinz

  1. Travis W. Atwood

    I had the privelage of meeting and flying with Don “Pappy” Hinz last July during the Bob Dole Dedication in Lawrence, Kansas. A finer person would be hard to find, and I consider it an honor to say I knew him.
    He will be greatly missed.

  2. David A. Swingle

    Don Hinz corresponded with me concerning the civilian history of his P51C (tail tag …645) which was part of the aviation engineering department at Montana State University for 19 years before it was abruptly sold, wings cut off and then passed through several misadventures until he and the Minnesota Wing of the CAF rebuilt it.
    Although terribly busy, he corresponded politely and was interested in student maintenance of …645 at the MSU campus from 1946 – 1965.
    He and I had begun correspondence this spring to return …645 (Tuskegee Airmen)to Montana for next summer’s airshow. My last correspondence from him read, “Boy, you guys really plan ahead! Here is information on costs of airshow appearances….”
    Mr. Hinz, his supporters, and the State of Minnesota are to be commended for honoring the Tuskegee pilots and all other WWII veterans with this project. The airmen were validated by Mr. Hinz and the plane.
    I would hope that …645 is resurrected for static display to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and Don.
    With sadness,
    David A. Swingle

  3. Steve Kaminsen

    This email is to inform you that we ARE putting the RTP back in the air. As we speak, work is being done. A small group of us have been going to Wapheton ND since September dis assembling and now reassembling the aircraft. As a matter of fact we are heading back up there this weekend. The fuselage is basically back together, we are attaching components in the cockpit and on the firewall. The wings received the most damage. There is still some rivets to drill out and one of the spars can be reused. Which will save us a huge amount of money. The wings are still 6 months to a year away as the shop that will rebuild them has a back log of work ahead of ours to do. If you like I can attach pix, provide me with your email address. Also, go to this web site and subscrivbe to this magazine, we are doing articles that will update the progress,
    Get the third edition, a good article with pix of us are in there.
    It will fly again!!!
    Keep the faith…
    Steve Kaminsen

  4. David Churches

    Several years ago my wife gave me a ticket to ride, so to speak, in a WWII plane. It turned out to be at the South St Paul airport. A World War II bomber pilot came the same morning I was there, so there was no question that he would take the WWII-era plane. Don Hinz, who seemed to be running everything (with calls to Tuskegee Airmen member in between everything else he was doing).
    When he suggested that the Navy trainer was a better choice anyway,(I think this is the kind of plane:, I thought he was trying to make me feel better about getting second choice. Luckily he was also my pilot/instructor because the ride was incredible. And he was absolutely right that the trainer was a better choice because it was capable of aerobatics: loops, rolls, loop and roll combined, etc. With his instruction and coaching I actually did a maneuver that combined a full loop and full roll simultaneously.
    The whole experience was so exhilarating that it is as clear today as it was then. The most memorable aspect of it, however was Don. I remember thinking to myself, “If I ever want to learn to fly, this is the guy I want to learn from”. He exuded confidence and was charismatic in the best sense. Someone I would be happy to hang out with… having only met him that one time.
    When, a couple years later, I saw that he had died in a plane crash, I was crushed. It just didn’t seem “right”. It’s been on my mind off and on since then. So, recently I’ve been doing a little blog about the experience. As a result, I learned a lot more about Don, the circumstances of his death and his stature among many others whom he affected. Clearly I was not alone in sensing that he was an exceptional person. I wish there were more like him.

  5. Mike Simmons

    You by you’re actions and words pay tribute to all our service men “and women”. Many have served,are serving and too many die.
    May “God Bless All Who Went Before Don Hinz And All After”
    Thank You
    M. E. Simmons

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