Harry “Knock” Nordheim taught about 500 people to fly — from commercial pilots to hobbyists and even aerobats for the Ice Capades — in his 60 years in aviation.
Twenty of those years were spent running day-to-day operations at Bader Field, where he also owned a banner plane service.
After his first plane ride in 1927, at age 20, Nordheim decided to pursue a career in the fledgling industry.
“I got hooked,” Nordheim, who died in 1990, told The Press of Atlantic City for a previous story. “I just started to hang around (Bader Field).”
Two years later, in 1929, he was hired as a mechanic for Baltimore Airways, an early passenger service based out of Atlantic City.
After working on biplanes at the U.S. Naval Aircraft factory in Philadelphia during World War II — his daughter, Susan Sabol, said flat feet kept him from active duty — Nordheim returned to run Bader Field for more than two decades.
“He had to be there,” said Sabol, 72, of Flemington, Hunterdon County. “The only day he didn’t go back to the field was Christmas. In summer, he’d be there from 6 a.m. to 11 at night.”
Knock’s son, Bob Nordheim, 73, of Maitland, Fla., said his father ran a tight ship.
“He was quite a character,” he said. “He had a heart of gold, but he had a hard shell. He was strict with us and he was strict with his students.”
One of his students was Nelson Tash, 86, of Egg Harbor Township. He said Nordheim knew everything about and everyone in aviation.
“He didn’t pull no punches,” Tash said. “He gave you hell, but if you knew him, you weren’t offended.”
While the adventurous Nordheim dabbled in stock cars and even tried gold prospecting as a young man in Arizona, Susan Sabol said his true passion was aviation.
Nordheim left Bader Field in the mid-1960s to develop 60 acres of land in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township as the Flying K Air Park, where he continued to fly banner planes, train new pilots and perform aircraft inspections. In his later years, as vision problems prevented him from flying, he turned to restoring antique automobiles, Sabol said.
“He worked seven days a week, year round,” she said. “He was that kind of guy.”
Aviators from around the world still went to Nordheim for advice and airplane parts even as he battled prostate cancer.
“He was an authority in many areas, and I guess he was respected all over,” Sabol said. “I only know that from getting calls when he was dying. One man was calling all the way from Switzerland.”
Nordheim, who was born in Philadelphia and moved with his family to Atlantic City in 1919, was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame in 1988.
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