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HIGH OVER HOUSTON

Captain A. J. High: A Positive Altitude

by John Troesser
Captain A.J. High, wife and daughter
The High Family circa 1943
Photo Courtesy A.J. High and the 1940 Air Terminal Museum
If you happen to visit Houston's 1940 Air Terminal Museum, you have a good chance of being greeted by Captain A.J. High.

Captain High is originally from Cleburne, Texas where his father was a railroad engineer - the ultimate dream job for boys of that era. A.J. learned to fly prior to the U.S. entry into WWII, and was one of the first recruits to volunteer for service in what was then called the U.S. Army Air Corps. The ultimate "dream "job" for boys of his era.
Captain A.J. High family photo and pilot's compass
TE photo, August 2006
After receiving his military wings, Lt. High piloted B-25s. (Be sure to ask him about one particular flight in Sacramento, California.) He was then assigned to the Aleutian Islands where his bomber group was staged to bomb Japan - had General Doolittle's famed raid failed (This was the morale-building strike on the Japanese capital featured in the wartime movie Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo). But Doolittle's raid succeeded and Captain High was then reassigned "stateside" to train crews for B-17s and B-29s.

After the war, thousands of discharged servicemen packed the country's buses and the Trailways Bus Company created Mercury Airlines. This short-lived airline not only filled the transportation gap (as automobile plants retooled to the civilian market), but it also allowed Trailways executives to draw a second salary as airline directors - getting around the still-in-effect wartime salary ceilings.
Trans-Texas Airways plane flying over San Jacinto Monument

Captain High was piloting this Trans-Texas Airways plane when it posed for a publicity photo over the San Jacinto Monument
Photo Courtesy A.J. High and the 1940 Air Terminal Museum

One of Mercury's first (and last) pilots was A. J. High. After Mercury folded its wings, Mr. High then went to Trans-Texas Airline which later became Texas International. Even mandatory retirement (for commercial pilots) didn't ground Mr. High and he continued flying for the corporate world. He became a founding member of the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society and sits on the board of directors for the 1940 Air Terminal Museum.
Captain A.J. High and museum showcase
Captain A.J. High in front of his display at the 1940 Air Terminal Museum in August of 2006.

TE photo
.

Howard Hughes Airport?

Captain High, who has "never scraped the paint" on any of the hundreds of planes he has flown has truly forgotten more about Houston's aviation history than most historians know. He also confirmed a rumor that we had heard of the airport once being renamed (briefly) Howard Hughes Airport - in an effort to lure Mr. Hughes back to his boyhood home of Houston. Mr. High stated that the Houston Aeronautical Heritage Society has documentation of the renaming.

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John Troesser
They Shoe Horses, Don't They? October 1, 2006 Column

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