A life’s passion
Anholzer soon returned to Long Island, where he briefly taught at Aviation High School and then went back to work for PAA’s inspection department. In the late 1950s, his boss at PAA unexpectedly recommended Anholzer build a Boeing 707 model for the Operations Department to use in planning construction of hangars and terminals. Anholzer later described his first model for PAA. “It would have a wingspan of 39 inches. I don’t remember the scale, but it had to be accurate. I built it out of pine.” The model was so useful that the director of PAA’s Planning Department, Gus Ririe, soon added Anholzer to his staff which traveled to learn more about aircraft and engine components at Pratt & Whitney, Boeing, and the Air Force. “My model building experience led to and became a big part of my job. We laid out the work on paper, and built models of buildings, machines, and engine test cells.”
By 1960 PAA chose New York’s JFK Airport as its main overhaul base for the “Jet Age.” Construction was based upon the scale model Anholzer’s team built of buildings, hangars, and taxiways. When the facility was completed, Anholzer became assistant foreman in the shops, but returned to the planning department each time PAA purchased different engines and aircraft, including the Boeing 747. Anholzer’s first image of the giant aircraft was a scale drawing which left him gasping, “All the facilities around the world had just become obsolete to handle such a large airplane.”
Eventually Anholzer became manager of PAA’s Design Engineer group for the new maintenance and overhaul base at JFK Airport. “It was the biggest planning job in PAA history,” wrote Anholzer, “and it all started with a handshake between the Boeing president and Juan Trippe of PAA.”
No sooner was the JFK facility finished then PAA assigned Anholzer to build an aircraft service maintenance dock.
“This [dock] was to surround the 747 with scaffolding for the inspectors and mechanics to reach every part of the aircraft under service. The project would cost $2.5 million. I wrote the functional specifications and the winner of the bid was to build a model before approval of construction.
The model cost $5,000 but saved us lots of changes at a later date. When we pulled the first 747 into the service dock, the whole hangar crew stopped work to see it fit. My stomach was doing back flips as I ran around the airplane checking various clearances from all levels of the dock. It fit like a glove.”
Anholzer retired from PAA in the 1970s. He volunteered his skills to restore vintage aircraft for the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, Long Island. Remote-controlled aircraft remained his favorite hobby.
The man who loved model airplanes was himself a model of generosity and patience for the young people he taught, and those who worked with him.
Mechanic “Hank” Anholzer’s passion was aviation and aircraft models were the river which ran through it.
Giacinta Bradley Koontz is an aviation historian and author. She was the founder and director of the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation and Museum from 1995-2001 (the site of Charles Taylor’s grave in North Hollywood, CA). Giacinta holds a BA in anthropology with a minor in U.S. history and has given presentations on pioneer aviation since 1995.