Writer of Longest-Ever Running Aviation Column In A Mainstream Newspaper Dies At 94

Published in Midwest Flyer – February/March 2019 issue

Aviation columnist, Jack Elliott Schapiro, of Warren, N.J., passed away November 20, 2018 at the age of 94. Known professionally and in the aviation community by his pen name, Jack Elliott, he is best known for writing Wings Over Jersey, a column in New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star-Ledger.

Wings Over Jersey appeared each Sunday for 38 ½ years, from June 9, 1963 through December 30, 2001. It is thought to be the longest running general aviation column in a mainstream publication ever. He wrote his last column on December 30, 2001 (https://www.eaa501.org/elliott.gif).

In 2008, Elliott published a book entitled “Adventures in Flying,” which is a compilation of his most compelling columns.

Born in Bayonne, N.J. on January 23, 1924, to Anna and Sam Schapiro, Elliott lived in Brooklyn, New York before his family moved to New Jersey around the age of 5. He grew up in Bloomfield, N.J. and for the past 50 years, he resided in Warren Township, N.J.

Elliott was a World War II veteran, having served in the United States Army 83rd Chemical Mortar Battalion in Africa, Italy, and France. He fought at Anzio, Italy – an amphibious assault in January 1944 conceived by Winston Churchill that was a precursor to the D-Day invasion at Normandy six months later. He was part of the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and then flew into Southern France in the back of a Waco CG-4 glider.

After the war, Elliott went to New York University and began his journalism career as a cub reporter at the Long Island Press before joining the Star-Ledger, working his way up to the position of Sunday Editor. After leaving the Star-Ledger, Elliott embarked on a career in aviation public relations while continuing to write Wings Over Jersey, as well as freelance articles. His articles appeared in several aviation publications, including AOPA Pilot, Air-List Ads, Airport Journals, Aviation International News, Flying magazine, General Aviation News, Private Pilot magazine, EAA Sport Aviation magazine, and Midwest Flyer Magazine, among others. The last aviation article Elliott wrote was on the 2011 AOPA Expo in Hartford, Connecticut for Midwest Flyer Magazine (https://midwestflyer.com/?p=3651).

Over the years, Elliott won numerous awards for his writing from national and local aviation associations, and in 1986, he was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame of New Jersey.

Elliott’s fascination with aviation began in 1933 when he took his first flight as a 9-year-old in an open cockpit New Standard biplane with his father and brother. He earned his private pilot certificate in 1954, and his commercial pilot certificate with instrument, glider and single-engine seaplane ratings after that.

Elliott owned three airplanes during his lifetime: two Stinson 108s and most notably a 1968 Piper Cherokee Arrow, which he purchased new from the factory in Vero Beach, Florida. His son, Stephen, now owns and flies the Arrow.

Dave Weiman of Midwest Flyer Magazine remembers Elliott as a gutsy and engaging reporter, no one could help but love.

“Once when the AOPA Expo was held in Long Beach, California, and the evening party was on the Queen Mary, Elliott got up from our table, only to return with the first commercial astronaut, Mike Melvill and his wife, Sally, of Burt Rutan’s space-age company, Scaled Composites.” (On June 21, 2004, Melvill piloted SpaceShipOne on its first flight past the edge of space or Flight 15P.)

“No pilot was too important for Jack to start up a conversation and turn it into a full-blown interview,” said Weiman. “His love of aviation and aviation people was genuine, and this was apparent in everything he wrote.”

A stroke in 2011 left Elliott with aphasia, but he worked hard at regaining his ability to speak.

Elliott leaves behind his wife of 49 years, Esta-Ann Schapiro; his two children, Amy and Stephen Schapiro; and his grandson, Hudson Schapiro, 6, who he inspired to one day become a pilot.

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