Whether in the classroom or the cockpit, Duane Huff has spent his much of his adult life showing young people how to soar.
Huff, a New York native who moved to Georgia more than 65 years ago, led school bands and choruses for many years as an instructor and minister of music, and when he wasn’t teaching music he was introducing young people to flying.
Earlier this year, Huff, along with Captain James John Hoogerwerf and Major General Perry McCoy Smith Jr., was inducted into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame for his contributions to helping countless individuals find their way to the friendly skies. Due to the COVID pandemic, the induction banquet has been rescheduled for April 17, 2021.
“I was quite pleased, very excited about it,” said Huff, 89, about his induction. “It’s quite an honor.”
There’s a good chance that visitors to Briscoe Field have run into the award-winning Huff, as he has served as the airport’s representative for the last 20 years and has conducted site tours for more than 7,000 children and 2,000 adults. But he also has a considerable hand in local aviation history and is without question an aviation ambassador.
First taking flight at the age of 8 in a Ford Tri-Motor (“Do I remember that flight? Oh my goodness yes,” he quipped), Huff put off his flying lessons on hold for a few years as he began his professional life in music and education.
In addition to developing the choral program at Bethesda Elementary School in Lawrenceville, he created a music program for 18 area elementary schools and directed the band and chorus programs at Berkmar High School. Huff retired from teaching in 1988.
The longtime Lawrenceville resident restarted his flying lessons in 1966 at Briscoe Field and four years later earned his private pilot’s license. In 1984, Huff joined Chapter 690 of the Experimental Aircraft Association and served two terms as the local organization’s president and one term as vice president.
For the last 25 years, Huff has served as the coordinator for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagle Rally Program, designed to introduce young people to flying by offering free flights. According to Huff’s Hall of Fame induction biography, it has been estimated that hundreds of “Scouts, Sea Cadets, and youth have created dreams with the YERP.”
Huff, who earlier this month received a medal and a portrait from the Hall of Fame, has flown more than 800 Young Eagles and in 1994 chaired a committee for a one-day Young Eagle rally that saw 635 young people get plane rides.
In addition, Huff flew the inaugural participant in the Eagle Flight program, which he developed for older individuals.
“We take kids from age 8 through age 17 for a free flight in a general aviation airplane and I have flown 817 kids, one at a time,” he said. “And lots of times I’ve taken adults flying – anytime they wanted to go, I’d be willing to take them flying.”
In 2003, Huff received the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Major Achievement Award (for outstanding service to the organization and recreational aviation) and in 2007 he was the recipient of the group’s International Award for Young Eagle chapter coordinator of the year.
“The EAA is a wonderful organization,” said Huff. “This (induction) would not have come about without the support of the EAA, nationally and locally. They provided me all the opportunities to do what I’ve done.”
The Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, which was founded in 1989, is located in the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, not far from Interstate 75. For more information, visit www.gaaviatonhalloffame.com.