Aviation community mourns Amelia Reid, California's 'First Lady of General Aviation' and AOPA Sharples Award winner
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Amelia Reid, California's "First Lady of Aviation," died March 3 after suffering a stroke January 16. The 77-year-old Reid trained airshow pilot Sean D. Tucker and more than 4,000 others in basic "stick and rudder" flying and aerobatics. She received AOPA's Sharples Award in 1996 for her rugged defense of San Jose's Reid-Hillview Airport and a lifetime of devotion to the preservation and advancement of general aviation.
"Amelia gave our world of aviation so much with a flair and enthusiasm that was uniquely hers," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Her love of flying and dedication to primary flight instruction encouraged so many pilots."
A memorial wake has been scheduled for Sunday March 11, beginning at 11 a.m. and lasting all day at Amelia Reid Aviation at Reid-Hillview Airport. Friends are encouraged to bring food and memories.
Amelia Reid's first flying lesson was a $3 hop in 1941 during her undergraduate days at Kearney State College in Nebraska. After finishing a master's degree in mathematics at San Jose State University, she abandoned a programming mathematician position at the NACA (now NASA) Ames Research Center at NAS Moffett Field, which did not offer a flexible work schedule following the birth of her son, Robin.
In 1960, Reid earned her commercial pilot certificate and instructor ratings. She opened Amelia Reid Aviation at Reid-Hillview Airport. Her father-in-law and four local airmen had founded the airport in 1939 in what was then a rural area east of San Jose.
She flew more than 40,000 hours while training more than 4,000 students in basic and advanced airmanship. She also wowed airshow audiences flying her Cessna 150 Aerobat, the aerobatic version of the longtime basic Cessna trainer. Ever the flight instructor, her daring low-level routine was flown from the right seat—the flight instructor's position.
Amelia Reid Aviation's first aircraft was a Taylorcraft L-2, a former military observation plane acquired for just $350. Her training fleet has always included taildraggers and aerobatic aircraft, along with modern trainers.
She held an airline transport pilot certificate and was type-rated in the Cessna Citation business jet. Her certificates and ratings included gliders plus single- and multiengine land and sea aircraft in addition to flight and ground instructor ratings.
The Reid family and partners held onto the airport until the 1960s and then sold it to Santa Clara County. It grew into a parallel runway, tower-controlled airport that is a key Bay Area reliever airport.
But Silicon Valley growth surrounded the airport and led to repeated campaigns to try to close it.
Amelia Reid's defense of Reid-Hillview Airport was an unwavering, single-minded effort. She was one of the founding members of the Reid-Hillview Airport Association. For as long as anyone could remember, she was a fixture at any airport preservation battle.
AOPA dedicated AOPA Expo '96 in San Jose to the contribution of suburban general aviation airports like Reid-Hillview to the economy and business development of their communities.
AOPA awarded Amelia Reid its 1996 Sharples Award for a "lifetime of teaching and standing her ground on Reid-Hillview Airport."
March 5, 2001