when I got him back in a helicopter. For me to do that for my father was amazing. My dad loved aviation but life got in the way of many things after he retired. He had a massive heart attack when he was 52 and ended up getting a heart transplant. His medical issues limited his ability to fly. Fortunately, he got to fly again later in life.”

THE “BEING A JERK” YEARS Hooten tells D.O.M. magazine that his years after graduating from high school were his “being a jerk” years (which led to him and his father separating). “I didn’t pursue aviation,” he says. “I got a job, got married and had kids. I didn’t have the money or time for aviation, but I always had that dream. I bought a house in my early 30s. That house was going to be my aircraft. I made that investment of buying a house, thinking by the time I was 40 I was going to be able to use the equity to fly and own my own aircraft. Luckily, in my mid-30s, I bought a partnership in an airplane and got my pilot’s license. As it turned out, I didn’t need to use my house to buy an aircraft after all. “As a kid, I was always involved in mechanics,” Hooten continues. “I worked on cars and motorcycles — my hands were always greasy. I even worked on a racecar team for quite a few years. Once I got into aviation, everything else went away. I love every aspect of aviation!” Hooten had an idea of how to

start flying. “I bought an ultralight,” he says. “I had three acres of land and figured I would fly it from there. So I bought the ultralight and rebuilt it. I put a new engine on it. On my first trial flight, it picked up off the runway and moved over 10 feet before setting back on the ground. It actually scared me pretty bad. I thought maybe I should fly

real airplanes. That got me going to Cantrell Field, the local airport in Conway. I was an airport bum. I stood outside and watched people fly. I had opportunities to fly with some of the pilots. It encouraged me to learn how to fly myself. I saved my money and started taking lessons. It took six or eight months to get my license, but I did it! I then partnered with a gentleman to acquire a Beech Musketeer.”

After flying the Musketeer for a

while, Hooten decided he wanted to get involved with vintage aviation. He had met Dennis Cantrell, the founder of the airport. Cantrell flew vintage aircraft and was a trainer for J-3 Cubs during WWII. “I ended up buying a J-3 Cub from a guy in Memphis, TN,” Hooten says. “Cantrell’s grandson and I went down there together to pick it up. It was all downhill from that point. We were immersed in aviation. Cantrell was always at the airport, and we were working on airplanes kind of like kids in a garage working on old cars. He was a great mentor to me.” Hooten did that for several years.

Then he met Tim Tyler. Tyler owned a runway and talked Hooten into buying a lot. Hooten still lives there to this day and still flies vintage aircraft.

GETTING HIS A&P Hooten worked for the State of Arkansas for 28 years and retired at the age of 47. Tyler had tried to get Hooten to work for him in his aerial surveying business before he retired, but he said no. After Hooten retired, Tyler again asked him to work for him. Hooten knew that he would need an A&P certificate to do that. “I told Tim that I didn’t have the money to get my A&P,” he says. “He told me, ‘I’ll pay for everything if you pass the test. If you don’t pass, YOU

BECOMING A DME Eventually, the economy turned and the surveying business slowed. Hooten started thinking about what he could do to earn more money. That’s when he decided to become a DME. Hooten says he’s glad he did it, but it’s about much more than the extra income. “It is extremely enjoyable to watch these kids come up who were literally flipping burgers at McDonalds and are now aircraft mechanics,” he says. “It’s enjoyable to see that process from start to end. I hear their success stories. These kids that come through here are fantastic. That’s the part of my job that is most rewarding. Being a DME also keeps me up to date and active in the technology and regulatory aspect of the job. I average 50 to 90 exams each year.”

EAA B-17 In his spare time, Hooten is also one of the crew chiefs for EAA’s B-17. During the year he spends a few weeks traveling with the airplane to help maintain it as it tours the United States. He also attends EAA AirVenture each year where he volunteers his time helping with maintenance at EAA’s hangar before the show. Once the show starts, he switches to B-17 duties, flying on the aircraft during sponsorship flights at the show.

pay for it.’ I told him, ‘Well, you have a problem because I’m pretty good at those tests.’ So I took him up on on the offer. Tim and I went to take an A&P prep course together. We both got our A&P certificates. We started a business called Southern Air Services. I worked on the airplanes and he ran his survey business. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I got to fly and maintain aircraft. I also taught other pilots how to fly survey missions.”

10 | july 2017

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