They call it "hangar flying." Every day, pilots gather in the Steamboat Springs Airport, checking the weather, drinking coffee and talking about their favorite topic -- aviation.
During these sessions, a pilot named Otto "Pete" Bartoe usually stands in the background. He checks the weather and listens, then heads out to his Cessna 185.
Although he is a man of great accomplishment, Bartoe doesn't like to talk about himself.
"I see him all the time," airport manager Matt Grow said. "But he's very quiet, and he's extremely modest. I knew that he had done some remarkable things in his life. His work is out in space right now.
"All I really know about him is that he knows his airplanes."
The other "hangar flyers" didn't realize the extent of Bartoe's past until recently when he was inducted into the Colorado Aviation Historical Society Hall of Fame.
Bartoe was inducted along with Col. William M. "Bill" Bower, the World War II-era Doolittle Raider, aviator Morris "Morrie" Lee Quick and fighter pilot Col. Jack E. Wilhite.
Bartoe and his wife traveled to Colorado Springs to receive the honor at a ceremony at the Air Force Academy, and when he returned, pilots at the Steamboat Springs Airport had a lot of questions. They gathered around him on Monday to look at sketches of his inventions and listen as he explained technology that still may be ahead of his time.
"Well, I'll be darned," one pilot kept saying.
Photos of Bartoe now in the Hall of Fame show a young man in aviator glasses standing next to a Piper J3 Cub in the 1940s.
Bartoe was born in 1927 in Parris Island, S.C., to a career Marine Corps family.
Bartoe entered Colorado University as an engineering student in 1944, but also pursued his personal passion -- receiving his private pilot's license in 1945. He was 17 years old. Like many of his peers, Bartoe left college to enlist in the Marine Corps and serve his country in World War II. He returned to CU after the war and graduated in 1949 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Bartoe was inducted into the Colorado Aviation
Hall of Fame for airplane and spacecraft designs he developed during his career in Boulder.
In 1973, Bartoe formed Ball-Bartoe Aircraft Company for the purpose of designing and building his invention, the Jetwing aircraft. Ball-Bartoe operated out of a small hangar at the Boulder airport.
"The Jetwing is completely unique," Bartoe said. His finger slid over the wing in a photograph of the airplane. The Jetwing is designed to fly slowly and is almost completely noiseless. The plane can achieve two to three times more lift than a regular airplane. It also can fly as fast as 300 mph, but more remarkably, it can fly at 45 miles an hour without stalling.
"I'm sure there were ways to make it go faster, but we were not interested in the fast part. We were interested in the slow part," Bartoe said. The slow speed capability was accomplished through a modified exhaust system wherein engine output is blown in a thin sheet over the wing rather than out of a tailpipe. The hot exhaust and bi-pass air flows follow the contours of the wing flaps.
"That was a technique that was before its time," Bartoe said. "Maybe 10 years from now, commercial airplanes will use it."
The Jetwing had its first test flight in 1977 at Mojave airport with the famous pilot Herman "Fish" Salmon. It now resides at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma.
The Jetwing earned him recognition among aeronautic engineers, but Bartoe is probably best known among private pilots for his design of an aerobatic bi-plane called the SkyotÃ», designed in 1974.
Plans and wings for the SkyotÃ» are sold through Bartoe's company, SkyotÃ» Aeromarine Ltd.
In 1978, after the Jetwing was given to the University of Tennessee, Bartoe took a two-year vacation. He sailed a 31-foot ketch called "Velella" to the South Pacific. He retired in 1981 and moved to Clark, where he lives.
More than 20 years later, he is being acknowledged for his contributions to aviation.
"It blows me away," Grow said. "I'm always amazed how much aviator talent we have in Steamboat. I've met veterans with some amazing stories over the years. There's just so much aviation culture and heritage here.
"And we're extremely proud of (Bartoe's) accomplishments. It's an honor to have him here."
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