Herb Elliott, cofounder of Elliott Aviation, died at North Collier Hospital in Naples, Fla., on Dec. 10, at age 90. Arlene Elliott, his wife of 66 years and cofounder of the company, was at his side, along with other members of his family.
“This is a sad time for the entire Elliott Aviation family,” said Wynn Elliott, president of Elliott Aviation. “Herb was truly an aviation pioneer and a wonderful patriarch of our company and our family.”
Don Herrman, a longtime friend and Elliott employee, remembered Elliott as an aviation innovator.
“He frequently expressed his belief that the most important word in the dictionary is imagination,” he said. “He was always looking for ways to pair his love of flying with his desire to expand the business.”
Elliott graduated from Davenport High School in Iowa. With the money saved from working his second job as a bass fiddle player in Maurice Bruckman’s local dance band, he purchased his first airplane for $350. In 1936, he founded Elliott Flying Service at Cram Field in Davenport. Under his leadership, and with his passion for aviation, those humble beginnings of offering flight instruction would later rise to nationally-recognized prominence as a full-service business aircraft sales and technical services company, with facilities and dealerships in the Quad Cities; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minn.; and Omaha, Neb.
Elliott was a true aviation pioneer and successful entrepreneur with many industry firsts and accomplishments. His recognitions and affiliations included receiving two of the National Air Transportation Association’s awards, the Distinguished Service Award and the William A. Ong Memorial Award, as well as induction into the Iowa Aviation Hall of Fame.
The company was one of the original, independent Beech dealerships. In 1977, Beech Aircraft Corporation renamed its Man of the Year award as Team of the Year, and gave the award to both Herb and Arlene Elliott, who are listed in the Beechcraft Hall of Fame. The couple also was inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame, and the Elliotts have been members of many aviation, business and civic organizations.
Born less than 12 years after the Wright brothers’ historic flight, Elliott’s experience in aviation encompassed virtually every aviation generation the world has known. Soon celebrating its 70th year in business, Elliott Aviation now holds the distinction of being one of the oldest aviation service organizations in the industry.
Early in his career, Elliott was a distinguished serviceman and military airman. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Elliotts moved to Bonham, Texas, where he served as a civilian flight instructor for the Army Air Corps. He later volunteered for duty with the U.S. Air Force, Fifth Ferry Command, in Dallas.
Elliott was much more than an aviation pioneer and entrepreneur. He was a good friend to many in the aviation industry. He was also a man of integrity whose word was his bond to everyone he knew and served. When the company was young, most Elliott Aviation customers knew him personally, and their respect for him was a major factor in the company’s growth for many years.