This past week, our club and the entire modeling community lost a long standing member and friend. Depending on who you ask, John can be described as filling any number of roles. To many he was a loving son, a committed Boyfriend and Husband, a dependable Brother, a comedic Cousin, a silly Uncle, the gregarious talker, a talented artist, and a close friend. Heck, the Kraft Foods Corporation might even describe him as their most dedicated Italian Salad Dressing Fan, considering he put the stuff on just about everything! That being said, regardless of who you ask, there was one thing that stands out to all who knew him. John had an immeasurable dedication and insatiable passion for model aviation. John loved all things related to our hobby and demonstrated it with his building and fabrication skills, precision flying, a need for speed, his budding interest in turbine jets and his competitive pylon racing spirit. Johns family would say that throughout his life, they cannot ever remember a time in which there wasn’t some sort of gravity defying apparatus within reach of him. Whether it was a rubber band powered balsa and tissue paper plane, a control line combat pilot (nicknamed Bell Crank for the number of planes he destroyed), a glow powered 4 – Star .40, or a turbine powered jet, John loved them all. His quest to go fast even resulted in making his own solid propellants engines and strapping them onto his remote control contraptions in an effort to experiment with rocket powered methods of going fast and destroying airframes.
A PT-40 Trainer, The call for help, A Rescue, and the Birth of a Friendship:
Back in the early/mid 90’s the Spirits of St. Louis R/C club was located over in Creve Coeur, MO across from the lake on Marine. I had just graduated from Rolla and this newly degreed engineer finally had the means to build a Great Planes PT-40 Trainer after spending my childhood building Guillows tissue and balsa planes, dreaming of a real remote control plane. John Bruno took me under his wing and with the help of several others like the late Bob Gizzie, and Gene Jones (all have now passed on), they taught me to fly. If it wasn’t for his patience and thoughtful donation of his flying time to buddy up with me I probably wouldn’t be flying today. I remember one particular dusk we were out at the field and John was flying his normal sport plane (A 4 star .40 with Supertigre Engine) back and forth up and down the flightline in knife edge. John always flew knife edge. In a 8 minute flight he was probably in knife edge orientation at least 7 minutes! I used to ask him, “Does that 4-star fly flat and level or does one wing weigh 2 lbs more than the other?” It was fairly windy that day and I had launched my plane and was struggling in the wind and having a hard time keeping orientation in the low light. After about 5 minutes my airplane was about 2 miles from the flightline, quickly decreasing in size with the distance, and all I could do is yank back on the stick each time it was zooming toward the ground. I was in deep trouble. I remember calling out to John, “hey dude, I think I’ve lost my plane. If you could help me I would appreciate it.” He immediately landed his plane (Setting the radio down before it had even stopped rolling out) and said, “How the hell did you get all the way over there?!!! What are you doing, radio checking that thing?” He grabbed my radio and with almost no effort, recovered the thing and flew it back to the field. 5 minutes of flying later it was in the pattern and he landed it for me. “I owe you an airplane!”, I said. If it wasn’t for John, that airplane would have been a total loss. I wouldn’t doubt it if the dang thing wasn’t over Riverport Amphitheatre! I moved from the area in 2000 and lost track of John. In 2008 I returned to St. Louis and rejoined the flying scene in about 2010. That summer, I was flying a little 800mm Mustang that was pretty fast. John walked up and asked if I remembered him and was curious about where I got the airplane. I told him, “Heck yeah I know you John Bruno, you taught me to fly and saved my PT-40”. I pulled the receiver out of the Mustang and handed it to him and said, “I used to owe you a plane and now we are even”. Just about every time I saw him over the next 10 years we would laugh about that PT-40. I’m pretty sure the Mustang died a horrible death like a lot of our planes do! 😀 The Bottom line is that John was a selfless guy and was always ready to help. He embodied what I truly love about this hobby and that is the brotherhood that can only be forged by grown men, flying expensive toys, and often driving them into the ground like a fence-post.
Until we meet again:
God Speed John Bruno. You didn’t deserve to exit this world within days of your retirement and you most certainly didn’t deserve to be the victim of an occupational accident. We can only hope that you, Jimmy Doolittle, The Granville Brothers, and Chuck Yeager are taking turns, dancing at the edge of destruction behind the stick of the X-1 and you have finally gotten your dream of what its like to fly a FULL SCALE rocket powered aircraft. If you could do me a favor, just try not to pile the damn thing up before I get there because I would like a turn at the sticks too man!
If you have a John Bruno Story or humorous anecdote that you want to share, leave it in the comments below and after I moderate it the readers should see it in a day or so. We’ll be toasting John at the next flying club meeting and discussing ways that he can be remembered for perpetuity.
See you at the field!
If you’ve been away for a while, get out here and do what you love. Life is too short and even more precious to put it off any longer…