Hippler now hunts hurricanes, flies heavy haulers after USAF career
He’s still flying, it’s just not with the Air Force. Nor does he have a reserved seat in the cockpit anymore.
“Rose-Marie and I recently returned from our 30th wedding anniversary,” said the retired Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel and Desert Storm veteran, who flew in passenger comfort over to France.
“They lost our luggage,” Chuck reported. But the couple — frequent campers — shrugged it off right away.
“We had planned all along to do a lot of hiking,” he said, “so we bought a couple changes of clothing and kinda aimed for an ‘L.L. Bean look’ versus fancy dresses and a tuxedo.”
A 1971 Eustis High School alum and Eagle Scout, he inherited much of his easygoing, quick-adjustment abilities from his late Dad, C. James Hippler, a popular accountant in town who had a wry sense of humor – but an immovable stubborn strength if issues of integrity or social justice were about to be compromised.
Jim died in 2002 and Chuck’s mom, Elizabeth “Lib” Hippler this past April.
Jim was also an Eagle Scout, as was his father before him. And, both men served in the military – as do Chuck’s sons, Navy Reserve lieutenant Kent and Air Force fighter pilot Chase.
Again: both Eagle Scouts.
High school football teammate Frank Couch of Dona Vista, an Air Force veteran and career EMT and law enforcement officer in Lake County, remembers Chuck Hippler as “a beast in terms of being in shape.
“No one on the field was in better condition,” Couch said. “The Diesel (a Chuck Hippler nickname which stuck like Gorilla Glue back in 1970 or so) kept himself ready to go at all times.”
“Then there’s his leadership,” Frank said of the swim team captain whose first Air Force assignment was flying C-130 Hurricane Hunters out of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.
“There’s nothing theoretical about it. He proved it in those stormy skies in the Gulf of Mexico and he showed it when he led those C-5 crews in and out of most every continent when he was in the field grade ranks,” Couch said.
He followed his uniformed globe-trotting with a full career flying for UPS, especially handling a multitude of routes to and from South America.
For Chuck’s part, he’d much rather talk about his already-accomplished, junior-officer sons.
“Did you know that Kent is qualified as an actual nuclear scientist?” Chuck tasks a visitor. “Or that his first Navy ship was the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt?”
“Credit the University of Florida and the United States Navy for the nuclear stuff,” the ol’ colonel says. “But Kent is scary smart. Always has been.”
Kent Hippler was also captain of his swim team — at Winter Park High School.
Chuck and Rose-Marie, who live in Orlando, are equally proud of Chase, still in the fighter training pipeline but already possessing his wings. The lieutenant’s parents have been to see him twice at training bases in Texas and New Mexico in addition to previous visits to the Air Force Academy – a special, shared alma mater between father and son.
“He was honor grad in his initial flight training,” his old man said, “and those pilot instructors in Del Rio (Texas) had a simple way of figuring that out:
“They merely filled out the form provided by a colorful group of Vietnam War jet jocks (“The River Rats,” otherwise known as the Red River Valley Fighter Pilot Association) which asked but one question: ‘If you had to fly into battle today, which graduating pilot would you want as your wingman?”
“The correct answer,” a certain proud papa told us, “was unanimous.”