Gordon Baxter

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Gordon Baxter

(Dec.25, 1923 – June 11, 2005)

Born on Christmas Day, 1923, Gordon Baxter was entranced by aviation from an early age. At 10, he paid “a 1933 fortune” of $5 dollars for his first airplane ride in a Curtiss Condor and was hooked on flying. Despite a slow start in the cockpit and as a writer, by the end of his writing career he’d spent more than 25 years with Flying Magazine; written 13 books; and had contributed to a Microsoft CD-ROM title, “World of Flight.”

He writing was so vivid that Flying Magazine started an annual Bax Seat Trophy in 1999 for the most-inspiring aviation writing. His character and attitude towards flying were reflected in his Flying Magazine editor’s comments in the preface to the book “Bax Seat,” published in 1978:
“Bax tries to pass himself off as a pilot, but don’t believe him. He never could fly worth a damn. But Gordon feels airplanes, loves and honors them in ways the rest of us are ashamed to admit.”

During World War II Baxter joined the Army Air Corps, hoping to be a pilot. Baxter himself noted that his ruination as a military pilot was predicted in high school by a math teacher who told Gordon that he spent too much time dreaming and drawing airplanes -- and not enough time studying. He joined the Army Air Corps, but washed out in a Stearman. Then, he entered the Merchant Marine as an officer, but after his ship was sunk in the South Pacific became a turret gunner in B-17s. Once there, he became a sharpshooter in every turret position.

It was only after World War II that he succeeded in soloing in a Luscombe, eventually becoming an active pilot in the late 1950s.

After the war he initially worked as a Mississippi River boatman, then worked for a variety of small town radio stations and weekly newspapers in Texas. In 1970 his break came when he was “discovered” by the senior editor for Flying Magazine, who had been in town for a Rotary Club speech. Baxter’s discovery came because he pushed into Editor Archie Trammell’s hands three articles about flying, each originally published in the Kountz, TX weekly newspaper. Those three articles, "Houn Dog", "Cross City," and "The Wide Job" were the first three Bax Seat columns.

His shortest column was published in 1973 and reflects the humor present in all of his writing. It reads:
“Naked City Airport, Indiana. Turf strip overrun with parked cars of a crowd of 7,000 who came to view 50 naked girls vying for title of Miss Nude America, and four naked parachute jumpers. Unable to obtain other data, notebook was with my clothes.”

Though Bax was always hanging around airplanes – and writing about them when he wasn’t at the airport -- it was not until 1957 that he got his private pilots license. And only during the 1970s, when he started becoming visible with his Flying Magazine column, did he get pushed him into upgrading his flying skills by Flying Magazine editors. At that point, Baxter added a multi-engine rating, then a commercial, glider and seaplane rating. Finally, Baxter tackled the instrument rating. The “chaos” of pursuing the instrument rating produced yet another column and one of his best-known quotations opened that column:
"Instrument flying, I had concluded, is an unnatural act, probably punishable by God.”

He was a life-long resident of southeast Texas, having grown up in Port Arthur. Gordon lived near Beaumont, TX during most of his professional years and was probably best known locally as a radio show host. However, he’s known nationally to several generations of pilots who thrived on his written descriptions of the joys of flying, done in his columns for Flying Magazine.

He and his second wife, Diane, lived in a house that they designed and built in Village Creek, near Beaumont. Baxter died at age 81, leaving behind 9 children and 16 grandchildren. He is buried at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Groves, TX.

-- by Andrew Czernek, aczernekATcomcast.net

 

Gordon Baxter’s books include:

Bax Seat: Log of a Pasture Pilot, 1978
Bax & Car & Driver: The Best of Gordon Baxter
More Bax Seat: New Logs of a Pasture Pilot
How to Fly
Jenny N’ Dad: The Love Story of a Very Young Daughter and a Very Old Dad
The Al Mooney Story: They All Fly Through the Same Air (co-authored with Al Mooney), 1985
Village Creek
The World of Flight, Microsoft CD-ROM, 1995 – contributor

 

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Revision: 10/28/2010