Dave Fowler flew over 30,000 hours in everything from the Piper J-3 Cub to the Douglas C-54 Skymaster and Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Born in Coleman County, Texas, in 1918, Fowler grew up fascinated and in awe of the airplanes that occasionally flew over the family ranch. After completing high school in 1936, he landed a job with Pan American Airways in Brownsville, Texas. By 1940, he earned an airplane and mechanics license and then headed to California where there were many aircraft companies.
Fowler worked first for Douglas, then Lockheed. In his spare time, he learned to fly and used much of his pay to build time in the air. When the Japanese attacked American, British, and Dutch forces in the Pacific, he moved to Consolidated Vultee and joined their Consairways Division. From 1942 to 1945, he flew more than 100 trips, island hopping across the Pacific to Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. As a flight engineer, he often flew as copilot and built up over 4,000 flight hours in transport versions of the Consolidated B-24 and PBY Catalina contracted to the USAAF Air Transport Command.
The flights were made with few communication and navigation aids and little weather information. There was always the threat of enemy fighters. Fowler was wounded and the navigator was killed when an enemy aircraft attacked just after he landed on Biak Island. After the war, Fowler worked as a copilot for the Kaiser Company, but in 1947, returned to Asia as a pilot for Pacific Overseas Airways, Siam Limited (POAS) in Bangkok. For POAS, he flew “blockade running” Douglas DC-3 and DC-4 transports in and out of the “Republic of Indonesia.” The Netherlands was intent on regaining control of its former colony (Dutch East Indies) and established an air and sea blockade.
Fowler became well known to the Dutch as he eluded their patrols on 12 missions. Flights were often made at night to rough runways or roads lit by signal fires. On his last mission, Fowler transported tons of Indonesian gold and silver to banks in Hong Kong. In 1950, Fowler became a consultant for the newly independent Indonesia. He personally established an air service and also served as the chief pilot and chief of maintenance for the newly formed Air Wing of the National Police. In 1956, after supporting anti-Communist Indonesians opposing Sukarno, Fowler shut down his company.
He later ran an aviation company in Iran for three years before returning to Southeast Asia to fly. After Sukarno was deposed, he returned to Indonesia in 1966 and established Zamarud Air Services, and later, Safari Air Services. In the late seventies, he flew for Conoco servicing their oil drilling operations in Chad. In 1979, Fowler left aviation and returned to his native Texas.