Forrest’s passion for aviation led to an airline transport pilot certificate with single-pilot type ratings in several Cessna Citation models, and he supported a variety of aviation programs including Veterans Airlift Command, Corporate Angel Network, and the EAA Young Eagles program.
Forrest combined his construction and aviation interests to develop the South East Ramp hangar complex at his beloved Orlando Sanford International Airport home base, said longtime executive assistant Lisa Harris. His desire to share the joy of flight with others was so strong that Forrest built an iFly indoor parachute flight facility in Jacksonville, Florida, and began construction of three additional indoor parachute adventure centers in Las Vegas, Detroit, and St. Louis. “iFly was a passion,” Harris recalled. “He loved iFly because it gave everyone an opportunity to experience flight.” The flights introduce participants to the basics of aerodynamics with slight shifts in body position leading to corresponding flight path changes.
Acquaintances recalled that Forrest befriended aviation legend R.A. “Bob” Hoover later in Hoover’s life after admiring the airshow performer’s competitions in Nevada’s Reno National Championship Air Races.
Before Hoover died in 2016, Forrest often flew him to events in a Cessna Citation jet. Vince Mickens, executive director of the Bob Hoover Legacy Foundation, said the relationship turned into a cause to honor Hoover after Forrest and his friend Mike Herman established the foundation to pass along Hoover’s humility, spirit, mentorship, and support to the next generation of aviators.
The two aviation organizations closest to his heart—the Citation Jet Pilots Association with more than 1,200 members and the Bob Hoover Legacy Foundation—formed a 50-50 partnership to fund and distribute scholarships to outstanding Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students. The initiative has delivered more than $600,000 to 34 students since 2014, said Mickens.
“He, like everyone else in aviation, pretty much worshipped the ground that Bob Hoover flew over, so anything they could do to further Bob Hoover’s legacy” was a priority, recalled Mickens. “That’s the kind of person Tracy has always been. He was philanthropic and this is an example of his generosity.”
“Tracy and Bob had a very special relationship,” said Citation Jet Pilots Association COO and Executive Administrator Cheryl Hardy, an FAA Safety Team representative who was introduced to Forrest during informal events at his hangar, and later joined the jet pilots association in an official capacity. “Bob was aging, and the folks around him were talking to him about how he wanted to carry out his legacy and share his memorabilia. They did a beautiful job getting Bob organized and the Bob Hoover Legacy Foundation was born. One of the things Bob Hoover requested was that CJP start a presidential scholarship” to assist young career aviators.
The Citation Jet Pilots Association manages the CJP Bob Hoover Presidential Scholarship Award, and Forrest presented the first $25,000 to ERAU honors program student Yann Bosch when Forrest served as the association’s president in 2014.
Hardy said the scholarship not only helped Bosch realize his dream of “flying for the majors” as a Delta Air Lines pilot but also allowed Citation association and Hoover foundation leaders to keep in touch with the young aviator and track his progress. Bosch recently joined Forrest, Hardy, Mickens, and several young aviation professionals during a Zoom video to share their aviation career outlook. The discussion included a positive picture for aviation’s future after the coronavirus pandemic passes.
“I think everything is going to return to normal, but it’s going to take time,” Forrest said during the July 29 video. “The bodies have to heal, the mind has to forget, and we have to have a vaccine,” but “people are still going to travel, they’re still going to fly, they’re still going to take vacations, they’re going to stop all this teleconferencing, and things will return to normal. It’s just going to take time. We just have to be persistent; we have to be patient; we have to stay after it.” He also predicted the Bob Hoover Legacy Foundation’s $600,000 in aviation education scholarships distributed so far would “shortly” increase to $1 million.
Hardy remembered Forrest as “a tremendous pilot,” and a role model for others. “His dedication to aviation was second to none.”