The Hudson Valley recently lost an aviation icon with the passing of Robbie Robinson at the age of 90. Born Alden Emery Robinson in Greenville N. H. to mother Hazel (Kimball) Robinson and father Austin E. Robinson, he was known as Robbie to all.
Robbie had three sisters, Charlene, who passed away as an infant, Evelyn and Francis who preceded him in death. Robbie is survived by his three sons, John Robinson of Glendale, AZ (daughter in law Sophia), Steve Robinson of Shirley, MA (daughter in law Claire), and Peter Robinson of Lansing, MI (daughter in law Michele). Robbie had four grandchildren, Amanda Robinson, Elizabeth (Robinson) Brown, Hannah Robinson and the late Joseph Robinson.
Many knew Robbie as “Robbie the Crop duster”, however, his contributions to aviation went much further. Robbie served our country in WW II as an advanced training flight instructor in the North American AT-6 aircraft. Post war he flew Beechcraft C-45’s, Curtiss C-46 Commandos, Curtiss P-40 fighters and the venerable Boeing B-17 bomber. Robbie was honorably discharged from the USAF Reserve in October 1957.
Robbie returned to the northeast and started Aerospray and Dust Service, an aerial application business located in Accord, NY. He used converted Stearman bi-planes that were originally built and employed as trainers for the military. When Grumman aircraft decided to engineer a purpose built aircraft for aerial application they went to Robbie. With his expertise, the Grumman Ag-Cat was born and Robbie was asked to fly some of the operational flight-testing that led to many improvements and safety modifications employed on the Ag-Cat to this day. Robbie continued to fly his favorite Ag-Cat as a fire suppression pilot for Downstown Aerial Applicators until the age of 81.
Robbie was a truck driver, aircraft mechanic, airshow aerobatic pilot, aerial applicator and fire bomber, always the consummate professional in all his endeavors. However, Robbie’s favorite spot was sitting in the seat of a Grumman Ag-Cat, flying it with both grace and precision few others can match.
For farmers, now grown kids of farmers, and scores of citizens of the Hudson Valley, the memories of a Stearman bi-plane or a yellow and gray Ag-Cat with wheels gently caressing the tops of the corn will forever be synonymous with “Robbie the Crop duster”.
Robbie is interred in the Greenville Cemetery, Greenville New Hampshire.