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Hubert Gary (Hugh) Smith, 86, retired test pilot and U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, formerly of Burnsville, North Carolina, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at his home in Lakeland, Florida. He was born on September 8, 1932, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Alfred and Anna (Szucs) Smith. Hugh and his siblings, Frank and Dolores, grew up in Jersey City, where he graduated from W. L. Dickinson High School in 1951. He then studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Alabama.
During a visit home to New Jersey he ran into Terre, whom he had been acquainted with in high school. They went out on their first date on December 23, 1952, and were married on December 22, 1954, in Jersey City. Terre returned to the University of Alabama with Hugh for his final semester. He graduated in 1955 with a BS degree in Electrical Engineering. Later that year he was commissioned in the United States Army at Fort Gordon, Georgia, as a 2nd Lt in the Signal Corps. When the opportunity presented itself, Hugh applied for and completed flight training as an Army Aviator in 1957.
Hugh's first assignment as a pilot was at the Army Electronic Proving Ground, Avionics Branch, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, where he was responsible for drafting test plans for newly developed electronic systems that included a remote helicopter landing system by Bell Helicopter and Decca Navigation System. In 1959, he was assigned to the Army Electronic Retrofit Division General Depot in France, responsible for the retrofit of avionic systems in all Army aircraft assigned to Europe. During this period, as Chief of the Engineering Branch, he developed the specifications for installing Automatic Stabilization Equipment in H-34 aircraft.
In 1963, Hugh was assigned to the Army Aviation Test Board in Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he was one of three pilots to evaluate six civilian helicopter models for the primary helicopter trainer won by the Hughes 269 (TH-55). During his first Vietnam tour in 1964, Hugh was assigned to the DDR&E Vietnam Field Unit to work on the evaluation of Decca Navigation System. He then returned to the University of Alabama to complete his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. In 1967 he was assigned to the Army Concept Team for his 2nd tour in Vietnam, where he evaluated upgraded SLAR and Line Scanning Infrared systems installed in the OV-1 Mohawk aircraft.
Hugh graduated with the 53rd Class of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland, in 1969 and was immediately assigned as Army Liaison Officer/Instructor Pilot to the School. During his time at the USN Test Pilot School he was part of a study group to analyze combining the USNTPS and AFTPS. He also assisted NAVAIR and Drug Enforcement with the development of a FLIR for the OV-1 Mohawk. In this capacity he assisted with the US Naval Weapons System Test in substantiating the system structural integrity (dives to redline) along with the operational functionality of the system. Hugh's final military assignment was as an ROTC instructor at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, where he guest lectured in both the Aeronautical and Electrical Engineering Departments. Hugh retired from the U.S. Army in 1975 at the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In 1977, Hugh joined Piper Aircraft in Vero Beach, Florida, as a test pilot, where he performed the certification of the Piper Dakota (PA-28236) including spin testing. In 1978, he was promoted to Chief Experimental Test Pilot for Piper at their new facility in Lakeland, Florida. He was responsible for the testing and certification of the Cheyenne III (PA42) to FAR Part-23. This was Piper’s first T-tailed cabin airplane for which Hugh flew the First Flight, all of the flutter flights and many of the high alpha flights. The design presented major development challenges to resolve power-on deep stall characteristics where AOA in excess of 70 degrees were achieved. For the certification, Hugh flew all the flutter dives working closely with the father of flutter analysis, Leon Tolve (1916-2004). After certification of the Cheyenne III, Hugh was promoted to Director of Engineering and later to Advanced Engineering, where he performed comparative performance analysis for competitive contracts. He also made the First Flight for the Piper T-35 Pillan airplane developed for the Chilean Air Force.
In 1984, Hugh became an independent consultant, with Piper Aircraft as his first client. He continued to perform test flights, consulted and testified in court on aircraft related cases, and also wrote computer programs for other businesses. He was most proud of the CaseLink Patient Scheduling System he wrote for Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Hugh was designated a FAA Engineering Representative for Flight Test and Flight Analysis and awarded a FAA Consultant Designated Engineering Representative Certification. During his career in the military and afterwards as a test pilot, Hugh received numerous commendations, awards and medals, including the Bronze Star. He was especially honored to be elected and certified as a Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots in 2013.
Throughout his military career and work at Piper, Hugh and Terre enjoyed an active social life and shared many adventures. Whenever they danced together, everyone in the room would stop to watch. While living in France, they traveled to Italy to visit Terre's relatives, and to England to visit Hugh's extended family. In Maryland and Florida, they enjoyed boating, crabbing and fishing. When they moved to Lakeland, Hugh and Terre built their dream home together. Hugh was the taste-tester for all the recipes in Terre's book, Microwave Cooking for One by Marie T. Smith (https://www.microwavecookingforone.com/) published in 1986 and he was proud of the fact that he formatted the entire book for the publisher on his computer before it went to print. When Terre passed away in November 1987, Hugh was devastated.
Then Hugh met Caroline, who often said to him, "Terre sent me to you." Hugh and Caroline were married on May 26, 1990, in Lakeland, Florida. It had always been Caroline's dream to live in the mountains of North Carolina. Eventually Hugh and Caroline purchased a vacation home on the side of a mountain in Burnsville. They made several modifications to the home to suit the lifestyle they wanted to live. When Caroline retired from her career as a showroom designer at Florida Tile, they moved to Burnsville permanently in January 1998. Caroline and Hugh became active members of the community, attended the Episcopal Church, and made many friends in the area. Caroline passed away in November 2017. Hugh was, once again, devastated.
Hugh returned to Lakeland, and spent the last year of his life close to his eldest daughter, surrounded by his own furnishings and memorabilia in a home remodeled just for him. He busied himself on his computer with digital photography and keeping abreast of current events, watching movies and television with Tracy, and playing with his beloved cat, Lou E. He especially enjoyed receiving two visits from his sister, Dolores; his daughters and other family, as well as many good friends. He was cared for by his daughter, Tracy; helper, Janet Pitts; and always looked forward to weekly visits by his nurse, Sarah DeJesus.
In his youth, Hugh played the drums, and often performed with local bands and orchestras in Jersey City. Throughout his adult life, he continued to play drums and never passed up an opportunity to sit in on a set. He especially liked jazz music. While living in Maryland, Hugh and Terre purchased a 31-foot Trojan cabin cruiser, in which he brought his family up to and back from New Jersey via the inland waterways to visit relatives. Hugh enjoyed boating so much that it wasn't long before he upgraded to a 37-foot Egg Harbor. When the Army transferred Hugh to Florida, the family vacationed as they traveled down the inland waterways on the Egg Harbor. Hugh would often exclaim, "I wonder what the poor folk are doing?" while piloting the boat from the fly-bridge (because that's what his father used to say when the family went camping in Hugh's youth). Once in Florida, Hugh enjoyed deep sea fishing and never forgot the day he and friends landed three sailfish (http://www.newspapers.com/clip/20808367/hugh_smith_sailfish/).
In 1980, Hugh built his first personal computer, a HeathKit H89, and taught himself to write computer programs. After moving to North Carolina full-time, Hugh added a workshop behind the home, and took up woodworking as a hobby. He custom made lamps and tables, many of which he gifted to family and friends. Hugh also developed an interest in photography at a young age, and took this hobby to the next level when he became an accomplished digital photographer. He self-published two books of his photography; Celebrating Freedom(http://www.blurb.com/b/768170-celebrating-freedom) features fireworks , and Wildflowers of Wildwood Acres (http://www.blurb.com/b/2791936-wildflowers-of-wildwood-acres). Many of Hugh's other photographs can be seen at his blog, The Smiths of Western North Carolina(http://chieftestpilot.blogspot.com/). In 2009, Hugh participated in Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk, and was extremely honored that his photo of a young girl Hitchhiking on a Muralreceived an honorable mention out of over 30,000 photographs (http://chieftestpilot.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-winning-photo-for-burnsville-nc.html).
A loving husband, father, grandfather and brother, Hugh was dearly loved by his family and many friends who will miss him tremendously and remember him for many years to come. Hugh was predeceased by his adoring wives, Marie Teresa "Terre" (Caroselli) Smith and Caroline June (Burpee) Smith; and his brother, Frank Smith. Hugh is survived by his loving daughters, Tracy Grant (Lloyd) and Leslie Abuso (Joe), whom he called the "jewels of his life"; his sister, Dolores Yetka; his aunt, Judith Tomasiello; his step-daughters: Anita McNeill (Chau Hoang) and Suzanne Seeger (Clyde), whom he loved as his own; granddaughters: Caroline Hoang and Catherine Hoang, to whom he was Pop-Pop; many nieces and nephews; as well as many dear friends, including Clyde Kizer and David Lawrence; and his cat, Lou E.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Hugh Smith will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 4 in the Chapel of Yancey Funeral Services in Burnsville, North Carolina. Chaplain Joe Bennett will be officiating. Following the service will be full military honors conducted by the Sgt. E.L. Randolph Chapter #57 DAV. Interment will be at Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that a donation be made in Hugh's name to your favorite charity.
"Landings equal takeoffs."