Harold Neumann, a farm boy from Geneseo, Illinois was an aviation pioneer during the Golden Age of Flying. He learned to fly in 1926 at Moline and honed his skills in a Jenny that he kept in a hangar on his parent's farm. In 1928, Neuman traded the Jenny for a Travel Air and entered his first air race the following year at Kewanee. Also, in 1929, he moved to the Chicago area where he began teaching at flight schools while participating in air shows on the side.
In the early 1930's Neumann barnstormed the nation with a daredevil flying group called the American Air Aces. A 5,000-foot dive at 350 m.p.h. was one of his specialties. His reputation as an outstanding airman grew and by 1933, he was flying competitively for Benny Howard, the Chicago-based designer/manufacturer/racer. Neumann competed in 1933 American Air Races held in conjunction with the Century of Progress in Chicago. In 1935, he flew two of Howard's planes in the 1935 National Air Races in Cleveland taking both the Thompson Trophy and the Greve Trophy. He was then awarded the Collier Trophy for outstanding aviation accomplishments and named "Air Race Pilot of the Year."
In 1936 Neumann temporarily put aside show flying and accepted a position with TWA which he held for thirty years before his mandatory retirement. He began as a DC-2 copilot and moved up to captain flying the DC-3, Constellation and Boeing 707.
Following his retirement from TWA, he became active in the International Aerobatic Club (IAC), flying his 1941 Monocoupe, Little Mulligan, which was painted like Benny Howard's Mr. Mulligan. He competed and won IAC competitions well into his 80s. He also shared his skills and techniques with younger IAC members at local, regional and national meets, and served as a contest judge.
Neumann was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Hammondsport, New York in 1971 and the International Aerobatic Club Hall of Fame in 1998.
Throughout his career, Neumann was known for his mentoring and collaboration with younger pilots. Not only would he freely share his aviation and mechanical skills, but he would impart to them his philosophy of determination and hard work to achieve their goals.
Harold passed away July 5, 1995, at the age of 89. We salute him for his contributions to aviation, air racing and aerobatics.
Illinois aviation hall of fame inductees from 2018