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the register

Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for locating pilot Boddorff's son and helping to arrange my meeting with him.





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Harold E. Boddorff, Ca. Early 1940s (Source: Boddorff Family)


Harold Boddorff signed the Pitcairn Field Register twice. His first landing was on January 11, 1942. He was flying a Piper Cruiser NC38398, with two unidentified passengers. His second landing was solo on January 14, 1942 in Piper Cub NC38807.

At the time we find him landing during a cold January at Willow Grove, he was a student in civil engineering at Lafayette College at Easton, PA. He had volunteered for the Navy and enrolled in the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program that was established early during the war to provide prospective pilots with preliminary training. Lafayette College was one of 36 academic institutions selected by the War Department to train engineering and aviation cadets during WWII.

His itineraries during both his visits at Willow Grove were typical student training flights. He was required to navigate a three-airport circuit between his departure point at Easton, PA, to Willow Grove, to Mercer Airport in Trenton, NJ and back to Easton. Not surprisingly, Hugh Morris Mahaffey, a fellow student who signed the Register a few lines away,  was another Lafayette College student who was learning to fly during WWII in the CPT program.  Does anyone KNOW anything about pilot Mahaffey?

Harold was preparing to fly for the Navy during WWII. After qualifying in his Pipers, he graduated to the Stearman/Boeing Model 75 (Navy N2S). His class graduated in 1944, too late to see any exposure to war theaters or combat. Rather, he was stationed in Oklahoma. His wife visited him in Oklahoma, traveling by bus and delivering a bottle of then prohibited liquor (Oklahoma was a dry state). He finished out the war as a meteorologist, in Oklahoma, analyzing, compiling and delivering weather reports to pilots, while entertaining them as well with poker games.

Fortunately, pilot Boddorff is still alive and well at 92 years old. On September 27, 2013, I met with him and his family at his home in New Jersey. Present, too, was David Pitcairn, whose uncle founded the Willow Grove site of Pitcairn Field ca. 1926. Please direct your browser to the Home Page of this site to learn more about the history of Pitcairn Field.

Below is a photograph taken at Mr. Boddorff's home. His daughter, Jean, is at left, your Webmaster peers over pilot Boddorff's shoulder, with Mr. Pitcairn at far right. I asked Mr. Boddorff about the first airplane he ever remembered seeing. His father worked in Philadelphia and he regularly drove with his father past Central Airport at Camden. He said he was, "pretty young" then, but remembers the first airplane he saw at Camden as a "low-wing monoplane," type unknown.

Harold E. Boddorff, Center, September 27, 2013 (Source: Webmaster)

After WWII, Mr. Boddorff continued to fly (a Piper Cherokee is among his few photographs). He was a member of the Easton Flying Club and another club that operated out of Linden, NJ. He played tennis up until just a few years ago, and was a nationally-ranked squash player. To this day, he still notes and describes the cloud patterns and altitudes, and the weather that might be predicted from them. No mention of poker, however.

He had two careers in addition to his military service. He worked for a local cement company in engineering and sales. Then, at an age when most people are ramping up to retirement, he left the cement industry and created a business renting small refrigerators to university students. He took on a partner, ordered and placed refrigerators by the pallet-load, and ran a vigorous enterprise for a decade before selling his part of the business to his partner.

He stopped flying in 1991 to care for his ailing wife, who passed away at age 81. Neither his wife nor daughter enjoyed flying in small planes, and, notably, none of his family are pilots, including his son who lives nearby. His son, by the way, was among an active liaison chain who helped arrange my meeting with his father (see credit, upper right).

Although he stopped flying, that does not mean he discontinued traveling. In the past decade he has visited China and Alaska, showing the sense of adventure, which, according to his daughter, he has always had. It is the general opinion of his family and friends that he has high ethics, a good sense of humor, hides his fears, is a great father, is honest to a fault, exhibits an enrolling, positive attitude and eschews drama.

When I asked him what he wanted the world to know about him on the Web, he said he wanted us to know that he was, "relatively good." I thank pilot Boddorff and his family for allowing me to intrude into their lives for two brief hours. I am always humbled that families and other contributors allow me, a complete stranger, to come into their homes and share their stories. I hope I show up as relatively good.

Harold Elwood Boddorff is the fifth signer of the the airfield Registers (all linked from the Home Page) whom I have met. The others are Bob Buck, John Miller, William T. Piper, Jr. and Bobbi Trout, all signers of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register.


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