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Stephen duPont

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Stephen duPont

Stephen duPont was born July 19, 1915 in Montchanin, Delaware, the third of six sons. His father was Eleuthère Paul duPont of Montchanin. His mother was Jean Kane Foulke of Lenepe, Pennsylvania. He married three times: to Caroline Cambell Stambaugh in 1939, to Anne Franklin Hopper in 1948 (d. Oct. 1985), and to Ellen Kate Rawson (Hall) duPont in 1992.

He died July 21, 2012 and leaves his wife Ellen Kate duPont; his youngest brother Alexis Irénée; five children; two stepsons; seven grandchildren; two step-grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Born into an engineering and scientific family, and a world only just learning to substitute the mechanical horse for the real one, duPont was always a lover of cars, boats and motorcycles. While a young designer at Indian Motorcycle he designed the six illegal Daytona racers of 1941 (and probably the six legal ones of 1947 that swept the field). Nevertheless, his enduring passion was always aviation.

Despite being blinded in his left eye as a young teenager, he got his first flying license at 19 and led a professional life as a pilot and aviation engineer from the early '40s to the late 60's, first as test and private pilot for Giuseppe Bellanca, then as Director of Design at Doman Helicopter.

He was one of the earliest life members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and as owner of Helisoar, a manufacturer of kit sailplanes, duPont may have been the first American to offer a true kit airplane including all parts. He flew in every national sailplane competition from 1934 to the mid 1970's and served as a Director of the Soaring Society of America for Safety/Construction for many years. Stephen duPont was inducted into the Soaring Hall of Fame in 1987.

Always an inventor, he held numerous patents ranging from hearing aid devices to rowing apparatus. Additionally, he was a writer. A commercial pilot and an FAA Aircraft and Powerplant Mechanic, he wrote and published several aviation papers and articles in A0PA Pilot and EAA Sport Aviation. Astronaut Story Musgrave mentions that duPont's pamphlet about landing sailplanes was used by NASA and played an important role while learning to land the space shuttle. His book A 1911 SPANISH PILOT AND MIT AEROENGINEER AND HIS 1938 AEROENGINE UPGRADED FOR TODAY, written at age 91, is a memoir of a truly seductive time in history and resulted in yet another patent: for oiling a 2-stroke engine.

Published in The News Journal on July 29, 2012
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