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Of Airplanes and Hydraulic Oil

Of Airplanes and Hydraulic Oil

This is the second month in a row where I feel compelled to pay tribute to someone important to the fluid power industry who has died. Ned Stull retired from Hydraulics & Pneumatics as executive editor in May 1993 and passed away June 8. I had the pleasure and privilege of working with Ned for only six years, but he made huge contributions to our coverage of hydraulics in the aerospace industry for more than 20 years.

Alan Hitchcox
Alan Hitchcox

I knew Ned had been a U.S. Air Force pilot prior to joining the staff of H&P in December 1970. Ned called on his vast understanding of aircraft and hydraulics to bring dozens of in-depth articles about aircraft and high-tech hydraulics to our pages.

Paul Lange, our former advertising services manager, and I visited with Ned’s family at the funeral home. It’s always interesting to share revelations about the deceased at these gatherings. We shared some of our stories with Ned’s two sons and daughter, and they told us a surprise or two about Ned. For example, Ned knew the end was near for him. But he said he was ready because he was 87 years old and had cheated death more than once in his years as a pilot. Ned flew P51 Mustangs over Korea and C-141 Starlifters over Vietnam. I remember him saying that flying the P51 was like driving a sports car, whereas the C-141 was more like driving a bus. 

Ned often shared with me observations about flying and I read his manuscripts about the role of hydraulics. It was my job, but I enjoyed reading them because they were well written and taught me a lot about the technology. I also had the luxury of being able to ask him questions to learn even more.

I had a pretty basic knowledge of hydraulics when I started with H&P, but Ned patiently explained to me the workings of servovalves and the importance of keeping fluid clean. Fluid cleanliness can be a life-or-death situation in airplanes. Although operation of most machines that use hydraulics usually does not involve life-or-death scenarios, if you don’t respect the importance keeping hydraulic fluid clean, you better be prepared for equipment malfunctions, machine breakdowns, and lost productivity.

So I am grateful for Ned’s friendship, guidance, and for enabling me to carry on our mission of providing our readers with information they want and need.

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