In Memoriam

Published in the August 1969 Issue of Naval Aviation News
Photographer: Unknown

Captain Richard A. Schram, USNR, died June 4 in Reading, Pa., when the Piper Cub in which he was performing his internationally famous "Flying Professor" act failed to recover from a hammerhead stall and crashed on the runway. He was 52.

At funeral services in Pensacola, Fla., Chaplain Raymond W. Johnson, USNR, speaking of Captain Schram said, "We will never capture the full value and positive posture of this great man. Dick stands as a landmark in the history of aeronautical skill and Naval Aviation. He possessed that rare ability to simply, but profoundly, tap the pulse of people with a depth of humor that remains incredibly rich in the halls of our personal memory."

"Some men are destined to cross over in the line of duty. Dick Schram was the perfect cut of a man to step out while offering his gift to those who loved and admired him. He truly lived his dream."

Captain Schram had amused and frightened audiences at military air shows for more than 20 years. He was well qualified for his Flying Professor role with more than a quarter-century of pilot and engineering experience behind him.

He is survived by his widow, the former Marjorie Weaver; a daughter, Mrs. Linda Welsh, whose husband, Lt. James J. Welsh, is serving in Vietnam; and a son, Lt. Richard W. Schram, public affairs officer for the Blue Angels.

Captain Schram developed an early yen to fly. He took his first airplane ride at 11 and soloed while still a high school student in Buchanan, Mich., his hometown. As a student at Notre Dame, he earned money by flying low-level aerobatics.

He was commissioned an ensign in 1942 and assigned duty as an engineering officer in charge of aircraft overhaul and repair at NAS Glenview. Although he had been for some time a commercial pilot and Bendix employee before his commission, he was not eligible for the Navy Aviation Program because of a rule barring married men.

Captain Schram was discharged at Glenview in 1946 and decided to barnstorm to make some quick money. He invented the "Flying Professor" act in 1946 as a means of competing with the many former military aviators who were on the barnstorming circuit, and made his debut, appropriately, at Glenview in the 1946 Navy Day celebration.

He flew both military and commercial shows until 1953 when an automobile accident temporarily curtailed his flying. Just under two years after the accident, he began performing aerobatics again and, until his death, flew only in Department of Defense sanctioned shows.

In 1949, the Flying Professor, then a Lieutenant Commander in the Reserves, was awarded his Naval Aviator wings by Rear Admiral A. K. Doyle, then Chief of Naval Air Reserve Training at NAS Glenview, thus becoming one of the few men in aviation history to win his wings without going through flight training.

At the time of his death, Captain Schram was active in the Selected Air Reserve Program at Glenview and employed by Chicago Aerial Industries, Inc., Systems Division, where he was Director of Military Relations.

In recent years, the Flying Professor most often performed in air shows with the Blue Angels. His 20-minute act was always flown in a Piper Cub owned by a resident where the air shows were held (See Alumni Comments Below). Dressed in black tails and silk topper, and armed with a leather bound "How to Fly" book, the professor would "steal" an idling plane while the crowd awaited an aerial performance by Captain Dick Schram, USNR. After a wingtip, one-wheel takeoff, the Professor flew through a series of stalls, spins, loops and rolls while he vainly tried to "regain" control of the airplane without the help of his book, always inadvertently left on the ground. After 20 minutes of precision flight demonstration, polished by rears of experience and practice to look amateurish and comic, the Professor would come out of a dead-engine half roll and make a half loop approach to a drag-chute landing.

But in Reading on June 4, something went wrong, and the Flying Professor died, doing what he loved best.

The comment and photos below were contributed by Robert "Bob" Dentice who would provide his Piper Cub to Capt. Schram for his West Coast performances.

"Dick would fly My Cub at any shows he flew in California. He really liked it because it had a STRONG 85 Continental and the prop had been twisted to developed 2,700 RPM at 50 MPH."


Memorial Chapel


Captain Richard A. Schram
Memorial Museum at NAS Glenview

The Captain Richard A. Schram
Memorial Museum


The former Glenview Naval Air Station's non-denominational memorial chapel has been moved to its new location at the southeast corner of Chestnut Avenue and Patriot Boulevard and restored with its original stained glass windows, pews, lectern, and altar in place. The Museum was rededicated in September 2001 and is available to the community for rental as meeting space for individuals, groups, and organizations.

 For more on the father and son team and there relationship with the Blue Angels. CLICK HERE