PHOTO: Dick (center) poses with Wings of Hope President and CEO Bret Heinrich (left) and wife, Patsy (right), after final flight.
On Nov. 30, 2020, Dick Horowitz landed his last flight as Wings of Hope Chief Pilot. With a crowd of volunteers, staff and family members awaiting his arrival, Dick taxied under a water cannon salute provided by the local fire department and onto the tarmac outside the Wings of Hope hangar. His retirement was necessitated by a Wings of Hope policy requiring its pilots to cease flying patients once they reach the age of 75.
Dick joined Wings of Hope in 2012 after 30 years flying for the Peabody Energy corporate flight department. Dick loved his time at Peabody but said being chief pilot at Wings of Hope was “the best job that I have ever had, anywhere in my flying career — without question, the best job, even with zero paycheck.”
Dick has always considered it “a privilege to be able to help the people that we help.”
“The families that we serve really, really need our help and really benefit,” he said.
On almost every flight, Dick said patients and families express their gratitude for what Wings of Hope does.
“I almost feel selfish being a pilot and being able to experience that firsthand on a daily basis because there are so many people who do so much work here to allow that to happen. But the pilots are the guys who get to sit there and associate with the people who we serve.”
Although he will no longer fly patients, Dick will continue to do training flights and check rides for Wings of Hope pilots — and plans to serve Wings of Hope for years to come.
Dick has never taken his position as a pilot for granted. Shortly after he began flying in 1968, when he had only about 70 hours of flying time, he had a medical scare that impacted his eyesight. At the time, he realized that his future as a pilot could be short-lived. Fortunately, the condition corrected itself and never returned.
“At that moment, I was very deeply imbued with the sense that this is a privilege and nothing lasts forever – nothing. There’s going to be a time when I can’t do this anymore,” Dick recalled. “So I am deliriously happy that I’ve been able to do this.”
Whenever possible, Dick shares his enthusiasm with the younger generation in the hope that they might get the aviation bug.
“Aviation has been very, very good to me, and I try to do everything that I can to encourage kids to consider it as a career path,” he said.
When he looks back on his long and distinguished career, Dick continually circles back to what he values most: “I’ve met so many fantastic people.”
“Aviators are great people,” he said. “Aviation is a terrific fraternity and to be able to have done what I’ve done for as long as I have is really a privilege. Sooner or later it’s going to come to the end, and I’m going to be absolutely positively 100 percent fine with that. But every day is a blessing.”