Aviation pioneer and founder of Frasca International, Rudy Frasca, died on May 11, 2020, at the age of 89.
He was the pioneer of the flight simulator industry who effectively changed the flight training industry forever.
American Flyers contracted Rudy to build them one of the first ever flight simulators which made them the first civilian flight training school to utilize flight simulators for both general and commercial aviation education.
Rudy Frasca and their simulators have been an integral part of American Flyers training and family for decades.
The first time I was introduced to Rudy Frasca was during one of his visits to the old MDW training facility to see Monty Montgomery. Rudy was a large, charming character and he and Monty were very close. One night in the 1970s, Monty and Rudy took some of us out to dinner and we were absolutely in awe as we listened intently to these two pioneers in general aviation training. Rudy was thankful that Monty asked him to develop the first general aviation training device and he always said that without Monty writing him the $5,000 check in advance, he would not have been able to get Frasca up and running. The first Frasca simulator was delivered to Aviation Training Enterprise, Inc in 1958. In 1969, when I started instructing, there were already a number of them in operation at MDW. During this time, I believe they were called the Frasca 101. Today, even though the old Frasca’s are long gone, American Flyers still uses the same training techniques that were taught when training Instrument students years ago. What a wonderful tribute to Rudy and Monty.
I do not remember the exact year that I last saw Rudy, but it was when he invited about eight of us, including Monty, down for a tour of his facilities. We rented a motorhome and drove to Champaign, IL to take him up on his offer. In addition to hanging out with the charming and entertaining Rudy Frasca, a few other things stood out from the trip. First off, he showed us the $5,000 check Monty wrote him for the first Frasca prototype. In his shop, he also had a fully functioning copy of the second trainer that he duplicated into the third one. Rudy built these first trainers by keeping the last one he built in his shop until he built the next one because he never wrote down exactly how he constructed it in the beginning. Finally, I distinctly remember the Spitfire in his hangar that had one of the big, advanced engines that the British designed to chase down the German V rockets fired at London. He said it was challenging to fly.
I only had two interactions with Rudy, one of which was the time where a group of us accompanied Monty to see him. The way he acknowledged Monty’s part in helping Frasca get started really built my impression of him and made me view him as a generous and humble man. I was also very impressed with what he had been able to do with that famous $5,000 loan. Frasca has come a long way from the Frasca 101 compared to what they are doing now. Rudy has left a legacy that will serve general aviation for many years to come.
When I think of Rudy and Monty, the first thing that comes to mind is that they were both visionaries in introducing flight simulation to the general aviation community. One of Rudy’s most significant contributions was the development and incorporation of flight simulation devices in general aviation pilot flight training. During his military flight instructor experience, Rudy came to appreciate how a flight training device could accelerate the training of military pilots. The three-step approach of learning during ground school, practicing in a simulator, and then developing proficiency in the airplane was a recipe that resulted in many young airmen becoming proficient pilots. By enforcing “attitude plus power equals performance” and the “6 Ts,” instructors were able to use the trainers to teach visual and instrument flying procedures, positional awareness, situational awareness, and decision-making in a safe, comfortable, and well-organized environment.
Rudy was a genuine person who loved people and aviation. He was proud of his flight simulators and recognized the impact that his creations and company had had and would continue to have on the aviation industry. He would commit to an agreement with a handshake and his word and always honored both. No matter where you go in the world, you can find a Frasca simulator. My fondest memory of Rudy was when I was part of a group of American Flyers employees who accompanied Monty for a reunion. We spent the day hearing about the history of aviation from two true pioneers from the 1940s to the 1990s. On this trip, Rudy even showed us the check that Monty wrote to him for the very first Frasca simulator. He went on to show us that first he had built for Monty and told us the story behind every airplane and engine that he had in his facility. He will be genuinely missed.