Not only was Tony the inspiration for the formation of Austin's EAA Chapter 187 in 1963, he later founded the Georgetown Fly-in which is now the Southwest Regional Fly-in held in Abilene.

Tony was an avid homebuilder building eleven airplanes of his own. His passion was aviation. A contributor for many years to Sport Aviation magazine, Tony also authored and published four books on homebuilding. In 1987, the copyright and proceeds of these books were donated to the EAA in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

However, more importantly to me was his personal encouragement and support of homebuilders themselves. My first memory of Tony was thirteen years ago when our friend, Jim Treadway of Austin, was undertaking his first homebuilding project, the ProTech II. Jim, a novice to aviation, did not even have his pilot's license. Tony would stop by Jim's house, loaned him tools, and encouraged this non-aviator into the world of flight. Of course, the man who was quietly taking notice of Tony was my husband, Hal.

Tony became Hal's first aviation mentor. Tony always had a project going in his garage, most often his own project, but at other times, projects of local Austin homebuilders. Tony's garage was a center of learning. Unpretentious, Tony had a quiet way of encouraging people to strive for their dreams. Tony led by example showing Hal and I that fulfilling one's life is ageless.

One of my fondest memories of Tony was the 50th anniversary of the Air Force and seeing Tony in his mess dress Air Force uniform. I was filled with tremendous pride of who Tony was and what he had given to his country, his fellow man, and especially to Hal. I loved listening to Tony's anecdotes and could sit for hours listening if only Tony would keep talking. One story in particular about giving one's wife a jewel for each project undertaken was a metaphoric tribute to Morine, his wife, for the support and encouragement all wives and husbands give to their homebuilder spouses.

Tony's mentorship did not stop when he voluntarily grounded himself because of his health. Tony no longer built homebuilts, but instead built a tugboat - one does not need a medical to sail the sea. Launching his tug, the Tug-A-Lug, in Austin's Town Lake in 1997, Tony demonstrated that one does not look back and stagnate with regret, but always moves forward. Although Tony would go on to build two electric powered boats, boating did not hold the same excitement or adventure as flying. The Tug-A-Lug rested in Tony's yard as a living tribute to the energy and fortitude of this man.

Tony will be missed dearly by Hal and me. Tony taught us life lessons - lessons about living, learning, and aging. But this loss goes beyond the two of us. The aviation community will feel the emptiness of Tony's passing while at the same time celebrating Tony Bingelis as a friend, teacher, builder, writer, and mentor.

Tony Bingelis's First Homebuilt?????

By Bob Seibert EAA Chapter 187 in Austin

Tony never did count it as one of his completions when reviewing his various craft. It is a funny story though and I need to repeat it so that it is not lost.

It seems that Tony's VERY FIRST aircraft was a Primary Glider. This was back in the 30's in the middle of the Depression. Tony went partners with two other adventurous young men in this project.

I won't go into the details of how they procured all the pieces. They were pretty poor but had a dream of flight. They were pretty inventive, but that's another story.

At any rate, they got the Primary Glider built and came to the conclusion that they needed a tow vehicle. One of the partners' father had a brand new Model A Roadster. The owner's son was the only partner allowed to drive the borrowed roadster. This left Tony and the other partner to draw straws on who got to pilot the glider on its first flight. Tony "lost" and was relegated to riding the tow car.

Well, as Tony told it, they found a suitable piece of hemp rope and tied one end to the glider and the other to the back bumper of the "A". With all preparations made, Tony climbed on the running board of the roadster in order to be in a good observers position.

They roared off down the field with Tony hanging on the running board and calling out a play by play to the driver. Well, the Primary Glider soon jumped into the air under reasonable control. Tony shouted out to the driver - "Its flying! its flying!"

The driver-partner was so amazed that he immediately slammed on the brakes and came skidding to a stop to watch. They both got a great view of the glider as it passed over head - rope still attached.

They also got to watch their pride and joy reach the end of the rope and execute the world's shortest landing. The glider was totally destroyed. The hapless partner was unhurt. The trio decided that the best thing to do was return the borrowed rope and car then walk away from this crazy incident.

We now know that one of them had not had enough homebuilding. I guess he learned and we all prospered from it.

Mike Kilgore, Chapter 187:

When I was preparing my program for the Chapter 187 Banquet in January 1998, I had the opportunity to talk with Tony at length, and to know him just a little. That experience alone has made my membership in this chapter worthwhile.

The program was a celebration of the U.S. Air Force, it's 50th Anniversary, and a salute to chapter members who had served. Tony was one of five gentlemen who agreed to share their memories. I asked him to speak last. I think everyone who attended will agree, he was the perfect choice to conclude the program.

His presence at a meeting or event always added just a little something special. In the February 1998 issue of our newsletter, Hangar Tales, while reviewing the program and speakers, I said it this way:

"And of course, Tony Bingelis who, while not seeking the spotlight, continues to contribute to the success of this chapter in so many ways, as he did in the Air Force, by being involved, sharing his enthusiasm, experience and talent, while keeping his fellow members entertained."

We will miss him!