Friday, June 10, 2011

My Memories of Maynard Hill

Today I was saddened to read of the passing of Maynard Hill in the Washington Post. Mr. Hill was a pioneer in unmanned aerial vehicles, and set many records for speed, duration, and altitude for radio-controlled aircraft. His most recent was the first trans-Atlantic flight of a model aircraft in 2003.
I interviewed Maynard Hill at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab twenty-seven years ago when I was researching a book on the future of military aviation. I had been assigned the chapters on rotary wing flight and unmanned aerial vehicles.
I trekked to the APL in Laurel, Maryland, and shared lunch with Mr. Hill. He told me about his projects, his views on the future of unmanned aerial vehicles (which turned out to be right on target), and his hobby of radio-controlled aircraft. I was amazed to hear stories such as when he set a distance flight record by driving north over 500 km from Virginia to Pennsylvania, controlling his aircraft from the back seat of a convertible.
At the end of the interview, I asked Mr. Hill what his most rewarding project was. He told me that the best project for him was his marriage and rearing his children. I was ambitious and twenty-something at the time, so it took my several years to realize that this was the most valuable lesson he gave me.

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