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After a decorated military career, Edward Behne founded a flourishing helicopter company here
Vietnam War pilot 'fearless' in combat
By ROSANNA RUIZ Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 16, 2006, 7:32PM
COURTESY OF KEN MULHOLLAND
Huey helicopter pilots Edward Lee Behne, left, later promoted to major, served with Capt. Ken Mulholland during the Vietnam War from 1967-68.
Retired Maj. Edward Lee Behne, a highly decorated Huey pilot during the Vietnam War who later started a lucrative helicopter company in Houston, has died of a heart attack. He was 65.
Behne, born in Abilene, enlisted in the Army in 1959.
During his three tours of Vietnam, he logged about 2,000 combat hours as a helicopter pilot in the 25th Battalion, 25th Infantry Division. As pilot in a company known as "Little Bears," Behne transported supplies and troops, often during fierce battles.
Capt. Ken Mulholland, who served with Behne during his first tour from 1967-68, said Behne was "fearless" in combat. For his valor, Behne was awarded numerous medals, including two Silver Stars and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.
"He was not a dangerous pilot — he never put a dent in a helicopter," Mulholland said. "When I say he was fearless, I don't mean he took unnecessary chances. ... He was a tremendous pilot."
The pair flew missions during the Tet offensive, which began Jan. 30, 1968. "Tet was a very busy time," Mulholland said. "It was fighting the war the way a guy would like to fight the war. ... We really clobbered them."
After the war, Behne flew crews and supplies to oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1988, he founded Tex-Air Helicopters with just one helicopter. The Hobby Airport-based company flourished, growing to a fleet of more than 40 helicopters with multimillion-dollar annual earnings.
Steve Cowan, one of Tex-Air's early employees, said Behne insisted that his helicopters remain in mint condition. Even after a long day, Behne never failed to clean and polish his aircraft, he said.
"He used to say, 'Tex-Air, we fly with a flair,' " said Cowan, now a mechanic for the Houston Police Department's helicopter patrol. "He treated everybody with dignity — he was hard and fair at the same time. He was a major. He expected the job to get done."
Mulholland said he has spoken to some of Behne's business associates who described Behne as almost "too honest." "He was just the epitome of integrity. As a trustworthy friend, you could completely trust Ed," he said.
In 2004, Behne retired from the company and enjoyed hunting and spending time at his home in the Texas Hill Country, Cowan said.
Behne died Sept. 8. A memorial service was held Friday at Forest Park East Funeral Home. Behne's survivors include his wife, Mary Lynne Behne; two sons; and four stepchildren.