Fritz Compton

Gone West.  Captain F.B. “Fritz” Compton died peacefully on April 9, 2006 in Plano, Texas.  He was 90 years old.  He was born in Manassas, Virginia on April 15, 1915, the son of Charles Burton and Mary Boyer Compton. 

His job and hobby was aviation.  He soloed in 1935 in an Aeronca C-3 airplane, and flew Piper Cub floatplanes from the Potomac River giving airplane rides until he was hired by Eastern Air Lines in 1939.  He started flying the EAL "Great Silver Fleet" on the Douglas DC-2, predecessor to the famous DC-3.  He flew the Constellation, all of the DC-4,6,7 series to the DC-8 jet airliner, the Lockheed Electra and completed his professional aviation career flying the Lockheed L-1011, when he reluctantly retired in 1975 (by FAA rules) at age 60.   

His hobby was flying sailplanes and he flew them well.   Fritz Compton was recognized by the Soaring Society of America in 1948 when he was awarded the Warren Eaton trophy, the highest honor the Society bestows upon its members.  The award was not for his exceptional flying skills, but for his contribution to safety by compiling the SSA Standard Signals, which are still used today. 

Fritz was a mentor to many sailplane pilots, encouraging them by sharing his knowledge of “reading the sky” and efficiently using thermals.  In sailplane competitions, he always flew “for the fun of it”, and would readily offer a helping hand to other enthusiasts.

In many US National Soaring Contests, Compton placed in the top ten several times in the late 1940’s through the 1950’s, and earned a pilot slot on the 1958 US Soaring Team at the World Soaring Competition held in Lezno, Poland. 

One notable soaring flight was made in 1957, when he flew his highly modified Laister-Kauffman LK-10A sailplane 320 miles from Elmira, New York to Plymouth, Massachusetts, still the longest flight eastbound from Elmira.  Fritz had flown off his map and could have continued across the ocean to Cape Cod, but it was hazy and he did not know the exact distance across the water to Provincetown airport.  He decided that landing at Plymouth was prudent, so he descended from 7,000’ to end this remarkable flight.   Per his request, I completed this flight for him in 2007 when I launched in a Stemme sailplane at Plymouth and glided across to Provincetown airport on Cape Cod.  (Thank you Don Post!)  

Fritz Compton established the first gliderport in South Florida when he purchased 60 acres south of Miami in 1945 in order to have a grass runway for his gliders, airplanes and build a home in which he would raise his family.  

His wife, Davidina "Baby" Compton, passed in 2001 after 56 years of marriage.  His daughter Brenda passed in 2011.  Fritz is survived by his son Burt Compton of Marfa, Texas and daughter Valerie of West Palm Beach, Florida. 

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