Founder Of AMR/Combs Dies At 90
Less than a week after
he was honored as one of aviation's top 100 pioneers, the founder
of AMR/Combs died at a Phoenix (AZ) hospice of apparent heart
failure. He was 90 years old.
"He was a very dynamic individual -- a perfectionist, really, in
everything he did," said close friend Jim Greenwood, a former
aviation public relations executive in Wichita (KS). "He was a real
Born January 27th, 1913, Combs fell in love with aviation
watching his father train as a WWI pilot. But his father, who had
been shot down twice in Europe, warned him to stay away from
aircraft. Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight, however, proved
too much for the younger Combs. So he took up flying in 1927,
building his own aircraft in 1929.
Combs graduated from Yale and put in two years with Pan American
Airways before starting his own company, Mountain States Aviation.
That later became Combs Aircraft. It trained more than 9,000 pilots
who flew freighters, gliders and bombers during the Second World
From 1971 until 1982, Combs was president of Gates Learjet,
overseeing the company's move from Wichita (KS) to Tucson (AZ).
Gates Learjet later became a part of the Bombardier Aerospace
"Harry Combs had one of those extremely forceful and magnetic
personalities," said longtime friend Al Higdon. "He could rally
people around him like few people I've ever known. He'd give a
speech that would inspire people to want to do better and achieve
and reach goals."
During last week's Centennial of Flight celebrations at Kitty
Hawk (NC), Combs donated a $1 million Wright Flyer replica, which
will be displayed in the national park at Kill Devil Hill. He's
survived by his wife, Ginney, sons Terry and Tony Combs (both of
Denver, CO) and his daughter, Clara Moore, who lives in Montrose
Harry Combs, aviation pioneer, entrepreneur and revered leader,
has gone west. Happy landings, Harry.