Howard Pardue… Gone West
On April 4, 2012 just after 2PM, Howard Pardue left us before his time had come. He was 77 years young. His XF8F-1 Bearcat NL14HP crashed shortly after takeoff from Breckenridge Texas. We send our sincerest condolences from the staff here at PhotoRecon to his family and friends and we shall remember him in our prayers.
Howard was known and loved by the warbird community. He raced at Reno for many years, performed aerobatics at airshows and participated in military “heritage flights”. During the 70s and 80s, Howard and Nelson Ezell turned Breckenridge into the virtual center of the warbird universe with an airshow that became a legend in its own time. Howard had a collection of warbirds over the years long before it was cool to have more than one warbird. He owned several Corsairs, Sea Furys, a Wildcat, and the Bearcat, along with some more conventional aircraft.
Over the years he had a few close calls too. There was lost engine in the Corsair many years ago and the 1999 Oshkosh incident where the Bearcat he was in was hit by a Corsair. But he was a very skilled pilot and kept on flying. I first met him in Kalamazoo Michigan at an airshow in 1983 or 1984. He was standing on the wing of the freshly restored Bearcat smoking a cigar. I asked him a fairly intelligent question (I was only 23 back then) about power settings and he growled something at me. Honestly he scared me so badly at that time that I stayed away from him for 20+ years. Maybe I got off to a bad start with him. I finally talked to him many years later and found out he was a pretty cool guy. Robert Nishimura who was on his crew at Reno really thought the world of Howard. Everyone in the warbird community liked him.
His Bearcat was as rare as he was. It was a prototype XF8F-1 and had an interesting history. It was in storage at the Smithsonian in Silver Hill. The Smithsonian wanted Darryl Greenamyer’s record setting racing Bearcat “Conquest 1” for their collection. A trade was made and the government actually released the rare, stock, and very in need of restoration Bearcat to Greenamyer. It went through another owner and Howard got it in early 1983. He was well known for his aerobatic routines in the Wildcat, Corsair and he was at the top of his game in the Bearcat. I watched him fly a great routine in the Bearcat at the Chino show in 2011. It was an amazing and memorable performance for any pilot, let alone one that was 76 years old.
Howard was a successful businessman, family man, and pilot. He will be missed by more people than one can realize; blue skies and Godspeed Mr. Pardue.
You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.