July 1, 2005
Eli "Babe" Krinock has more than 15,000 hours instructing and has taught more than 1,000 students to fly. After serving in the Marines, graduating from then-Embry-Riddle Flight School in Opa Locka, Florida, and a short stint with Eastern Airlines (he was furloughed), he took a flight instructor's job in 1948 at Latrobe Airport in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (now Arnold Palmer Regional Airport). Amazingly, 55 years later, he's still flight instructing at Latrobe. He simply never left — and has never stopped teaching. To say he's a fixture at Latrobe would be an understatement. He started giving dual in Piper Cubs — mainly because it was before Cherokees and Cessna 172s ever came off their respective production lines.
Krinock joined the Marines not long after World War II started. He already had his private pilot certificate, so he was sent to Pensacola, Florida, for training as a liaison pilot. As a liaison airplane he flew up to the enemy lines, at relatively low levels, to direct artillery fire. He did most of this spotting in a Stinson L-6, but he also flew AT-6s in the South Pacific. His low-flying, slow aircraft drew plenty of ground fire from the enemy.
Guess whom Krinock calls his prize student? You probably guessed golfing-great Arnold Palmer, since that's who the airport is named after these days. Right on. Palmer soloed in six hours, so he was obviously a good stick, beating Krinock's own solo time of eight hours. Krinock kids Palmer, "You had a better instructor than I did." Palmer gave Krinock his first set of golf clubs. Krinock had never played golf before, but he took up the game and now, at age 81, plays regularly. Palmer's first twin for travel to tournaments and golf outings was an Aero Commander, and Krinock piloted that aircraft with Palmer.
Krinock still flies part time for Westmoreland Mechanical Testing, headed up by Don Rossi — in both a Piper Cheyenne I and a Beechcraft Baron. Previously he flew two Aerostars for Latrobe Construction's president.
Recently he helped one pilot get his multiengine rating. That fellow asked Krinock to train his wife. But after five hours of training his spouse the husband came back and said to Krinock, "That's it. No more. She thinks she's Amelia Earhart, tells me everything to do."
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