Volume 6, Number 2, 1997


Hens fly high with Ross Fischer

During his 27-year career as a pilot, Douglas R. "Ross" Fischer, Delaware '69, has flown the high. And, he's flown the mighty.

Fischer was at the controls in the cockpit when then President-elect William Jefferson Clinton jetted to Washington, D.C., for his inauguration in 1993.

Fischer's company, Miami Air International, which has a spotless record for safety and a growing client base, has flown the 1996 National Hockey League Stanley Cup champions, Colorado Avalanche, and the runners-up, the Florida Panthers. It has given wing to the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, to professional baseball clubs and to more than 40 college football teams.

Still, Fischer says, the high point of his more than two decades in the air happened last November when Miami Air was contracted to fly UD's head football coach, Harold R. "Tubby" Raymond, and the Fightin' Blue Hens' team home from an NCAA Division 1-AA playoff game in Huntington, W.Va., against the eventual national champion, Marshall University.

"It was a great thrill flying Tubby and the team," says Fischer. "I flew Bill Clinton to his first inaugural, but I think flying the Delaware team was more fun for me.

"I wish they'd won," he adds. "That's my only regret from the whole weekend."

When Fischer, who is the president of the charter jet service, learned his alma mater had made arrangements for the flight from Huntington, he decided to make a weekend of it. And, although he only flies 20-25 hours a month because of administrative duties, Fischer assigned himself to the flight.

"It was a great 'old home' week," Fischer says. "I got to see a lot of old friends." He enjoyed coffee in the cockpit with one college friend at the Wilmington, Del., airport, and he found time to tour UD's campus in Newark. "I hadn't been back in a long time, and I was amazed at the growth," Fischer says.

A native of New Jersey, Fischer was a pre-veterinary student in the College of Agricultural Sciences in the 1960s. His adviser was Prof. Wilbur Hesseltine-the father of one of Fischer's fraternity brothers in Delta Tau Delta, Barry, Delaware '72, and of the woman he eventually would marry, Penny, Delaware '70.

When Wilbur Hesseltine died last year, the family helped establish a scholarship in his name. Two seniors in the College of Agricultural Sciences were awarded $5,000 Wilbur R. Hesseltine Scholarships this year on the basis of their academic performance and membership in the Alpha Zeta honorary.

Mr. Hesseltine, a professor of animal science at the University for 22 years, was adviser to Alpha Zeta before his retirement in 1977.

Fischer graduated from UD at the height of the Vietnam War, and he decided to enlist. "I'd always liked flying and I'd always liked the water, so I decided to go Navy air," he says. Fischer spent nine years in the regular Navy before returning to civilian life and taking a job with Continental Airlines.

In June 1990, he and five partners pooled their resources and formed Miami Air International, which now has seven Boeing 727s making regular chartered excursions to Europe, South America and throughout North America.

In addition to its political and athletic clients, the company also has contracts with cruise lines and does work for Uncle Sam. Lately, Miami Air International planes have transported military personnel to war-torn Bosnia.

The second leg of the trip to Delaware was to carry a group of terminally ill children and their families from Dover, Del., Air Force Base to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.-a Sunshine Foundation wish-fulfillment trip.

Fischer is proud of his company, which stresses reliability and service and gives its customers exactly what they want. Charter flights, he says, enable customers to "travel when and where they want, at their convenience."

The company's planes-painted white with green and purple trim and a palm-tree logo-offer a variety of flight service options, ranging "from soda and pretzels to filet mignon and champagne."

Should the Fightin' Blue Hens need a charter flight in the future, Fischer says, Miami Air would be available. "I'd sure like to carry them again. I have a tremendous affection for Delaware," he says. "It was a pure pleasure for me flying that weekend."

-Neil Thomas, Delaware '76