CODY — Aviation pioneer Dan Hawkins died Wednesday at age 79, but he is scheduled to make one final flight Saturday, as his family members plan to substitute a helicopter for a hearse in his funeral service. The service will be at 10 a.m. at the Hillside Cemetery in Greybull.
"One of Dad's friends and I are going to fly him into the cemetery on a helicopter," said son Bob Hawkins. "Then after the service is completed, we are going to do a fly-by in the helicopter."
Hawkins died in Cody after a long struggle with leukemia.
He was one of the first to use helicopters for aerial firefighting and pioneered their use in a number of other areas, including rescue, agriculture, energy and wildlife applications.
"He was quite a guy, and always doing good things," said John Koller, a member of the Big Horn County Airport Board. "He was a pioneer and pillar of the aviation community."
During the 1940s and 1950s, Hawkins flew in the South Dakota National Guard and for Southern Airways in Texas.
Along with business partner Gene Powers, Hawkins bought Avery Aviation in 1969, building the company into Hawkins & Powers, one of a handful of successful aerial firefighting firms.
Though he first took flying lessons at age 15 in his native South Dakota while working for Rushmore Aviation, it was helicopters that captured Hawkins' imagination.
"There was something about helicopters that just intrigued him," Bob Hawkins said. "He probably logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 38,000 hours flying them."
Bob Hawkins said his father participated in countless rescue flights around Wyoming over the years, saving "too many lives to remember them all."