Doug Dullenkopf watches the air show during the recent Santa Paula Air Fair at Santa Paula Airport. Photo by Craig Mailloux

Doug Dullenkopf: Noted aviator, Screaming Eagle owner dies at 57

November 02, 2005
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesFrom the moment that Doug Dullenkopf walked out of a Pennsylvania movie theater where he had just seen the 1957 film “The Spirit of St. Louis” he knew he wanted to be an aviator.And the boy whose passion for the air never dimmed not only became a noted flyer but also the owner of Screaming Eagle Aircraft at Santa Paula Airport.Doug died Saturday, Oct. 29 at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura following a sudden illness. He was 57 and had been hospitalized since Wednesday.Doug, who spent much of his youth in Florida, was born May 28, 1948 and he and his family moved to Santa Paula in 1974 when he went to work at the Santa Paula Airport later buying Screaming Eagle. Doug and his family eventually moved to Upper Ojai.“He loved the area, he loved the airport, it was family down there, he really loved it,” said Doug’s wife Gail.Screaming Eagle had an international clientele with many customers becoming friends and flying buddies including actors Steve McQueen and Gene Hackman.“Doug handled many celebrity planes, businessmen, a lot of people from all walks of life,” who made the Screaming Eagle their first stop for airplanes.Doug also delighted in the reputation of the world famous Santa Paula Airport and the notable flyers he encountered, his joy always evident when an aviator he admired was met.“He’d say ‘I really know these people,’ “ said Gail. “He got to know a lot of people all over the country.”In 1992 Doug celebrated his 25th year as a pilot, a long time since as an 18-year-old he’d saved every penny he earned one summer to pay the full cost for his license instruction.“And not without sacrifice,” Doug said in a 1992 interview. “...all my friends had nice new cars and Doug had a log book.”But the good-natured Doug had received his license and all necessary ratings in less than four years, even while attending the University of Colorado.To celebrate his 25th year of flight Doug flew across the country in a 1929 Great Lakes reproduction open pit biplane. It was just Doug and the plane, like his hero Charles Lindbergh, The Lone Eagle, who Doug discovered as a fourth grader at the movie about Lindbergh’s famous 1927 solo flight - the first ever - across the Atlantic.Doug’s inventory of airplanes is the first thing car bound visitors see when they visit the airport and his care was always evident, each plane posed and poised for flight and clean as a whistle.The care Doug put into the planes was a reflection of his personality and attention to detail.“He loved blue water and green grass, he had a fetish about that...the water in the pool could never be too clean and the grass could never be watered too much,” noted Gail. “He was always very helpful, doing the nice little things, and so complimentary. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for or with the kids,” the couple’s son Eric and daughter Anne. “Eric, like his father is a pilot,” who just earned his instrument rating although a UCSB student. Anne just graduated from the Laguna College of Art and Design in Laguna Beach.
Doug did stay on the ground where he enjoyed scuba diving and family travel.“He always loved surfing as a kid and just doing things with the kids. Doug was the family photographer,” who never thought twice of being in the shots.Doug also worked with professional photographers such as Michael Terry and Plane & Pilot, flying them for exacting plane-to-plane shots.He had been president of the Optimist Club, was co-founder with Jim McCoy of the Chamber of Commerce Good Morning Santa Paula! - flying chamber members to other such events leading up to the area program - and participated in many Santa Paula Airport Air Show committees.“Doug always loved flying, no matter how much he flew he loved flying” and was generous with sharing his passion that encompassed more than 10,000 hours in the air.Before Doug’s nephew Matthew turned 16 he had the teen come out from Florida “to fly all summer” said Gail. “He wanted that love of flying to continue” and was proud when Matthew soloed on his 16th birthday.A very special trip Doug took was with a German airline pilot named Hans Dullenkopf who Doug found after asking a customer in that country to look up others named Dullenkopf in the phone book, a long ago suggestion of Doug’s father that had stuck.“Doug got to fly with him to Germany,” in the cockpit with Hans at the controls.Hans - whose own father coincidentally had suggested that he look up Dullenkopfs when he traveled - spent a week with the family this summer noted Gail.Dullenkopf was asked in a 1992 interview if he would have taken to the skies without seeing “The Spirit of St. Louis” and then racing to buy the book that he made the subject of a book report.From the interview: “An airplane takes off as Dullenkopf watches it intently, the gold-leaf crinkling around his eyes and the muscles in his arms visibly tensing as he mentally takes the controls. ‘Take my word for it,’ he says after a moment, as he watches the aircraft until it becomes a distant speck in the sky. ‘I would have found an airplane somehow.’”Also left behind by Doug’s last flight is his sister Joan Gepford of Virginia and brother Andy Dullenkopf of Florida as well as other relatives and many, many friends.A celebration of Doug’s life will be held Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005, 2 p.m. at the Screaming Eagle, where over the decades he staged many fundraisers and memorial services for others.There is no doubt that Doug, the owner of the Screaming Eagle, has finally met his hero, The Lone Eagle in that special place reserved for those aviators who reached out to touch the face of God.

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