Paul Stoecker has always had kind of a backdoor interest in planes and flying. It was his high school math instructor that seemed to stir the coals. By using aviation in his math problems, along with the fact that Paul really enjoyed this teacher, they would chat here and there. One day out of the blue he invited Paul to go for a ride. Armed with a permission slip, Paul raced home and his mom signed it. That was all it took.
He took a few lessons and joined the same flying club as his math teacher. The runway was based on a grass strip on one of the members’ field on a farm in Illinois. There were some unique instructions when you flew on this grass strip, like when the corn grows high, you have to land towards the beans.
Growing up in east central Illinois, he started his education at St. Olaf. There he became good friends with a fellow aviation enthusiast. After two years he transferred to the University of Illinois where during summer breaks he would take flying lessons. His math instructor had a friend in the aviation department at Purdue University. He had an idea for calculating winds aloft and he wanted some calculations done, so Paul wrote a computer program and came up with a table that pilots could use to calculate their ground speed and their wind speed. The payment for this was a lesson.
As soon as he graduated he came to Loveland to work for HP. A couple of years after he got here, his division moved to Fort Collins and so did he. Due to the pressure of time and money he didn’t fly here at all until he retired.
One of the reasons he got back into flying after he retired was due to his friend from St. Olaf. By now Bruce was a retired airline captain but he kept Paul interested in flying. He would take Paul to Oshkosh with him once in a while. Since Bruce had spent a lot of time in Iowa flying corporate jobs, he was familiar with the group that raised enthusiasm for aviation.
One year the group held a contest to see who could land at the most airports in Iowa. There were 126 of them. Paul hadn’t flown for a while so Bruce flew. They took off in a Cessna 172 and spent 3 ½ days and landed at all 126 airports. Once they landed, Bruce would keep the engine running, Paul would run inside and sign the book, then he would run back to the plane and they would take off for the next airport.
Of course they won. The prize….a hand held radio.
Once Paul retired he had extra time so he started flying lessons here at the airport. He bought a Bonanza and has been flying now for about 5 years. He has been training for an instrument rating and is always open for someone to fly with so that he can continue with his instrument lessons. As he says, it takes quite a bit to stay legally current.
He enjoys woodworking, riding bicycles, and reading. He is currently turning wood to create pens and pencils.