July 13, 1930 - May 6, 2019
Jay Grant Cotting, loving husband and father and a retired Flying Tiger Lines pilot who spent a lifetime using his hands and spinning yarns to anyone who would listen, passed away peacefully in Miami, FL, during an extended visit with his daughter on May 6, 2019. He was 88.
Friends and family remember Jay as someone who loved flying and tinkering with hands-on projects ranging from sailboat and hot-rod building to fixing airplanes to drawing lighthouses on napkins for every waitress who served him coffee.
Born in Cambridge, MA, on July 13, 1930, Jay relocated with his family to Coronado, CA, in 1943. It was the beginning of a long love affair with Coronado, a place that gave Jay many fond memories of the beach and the Hotel del Coronado.
Jay enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1949 and initially served with radar bombing groups that engaged U.S. bomber squadrons as part of a USAF effort to make bomb-drops more accurate. He was honorably discharged in 1959 as a Tech Sergeant under the 43rd Organizational Maintenance Squadron of the 36th SAC Group.
Following his military service, Jay expanded his passion for aviation. He attended mechanics school to learn about maintaining and operating jet engines (although his passion was for the big round engines). Then he gained his pilot’s license.
In Tucson, AZ, he created a company called CAMCO, which stripped down World War II fighters and bombers, converting many for civilian use. He was hired by American Airlines as a line mechanic, servicing piston and jet-powered planes.
In 1965 Jay accepted a post as a flight engineer with Flying Tigers, a cargo airline that served as a major military charter operator during the cold war. He flew a number of international routes, particularly in Asia.
During a downturn in the business in 1968 and right after moving to Huntington Beach, CA, Jay and many of his fellow flight crew members were furloughed. He took several jobs: shuttling men and equipment supporting oil exploration to various far-reaching areas of Alaska for Mobile Oil; painting houses and working handyman jobs; and working for Garrett Air Research in El Segundo, CA.
While performing some aircraft maintenance, Jay suffered a broken arm and a serious skull injury that threatened his return to flying. He ultimately recovered and returned to the job that came to define his career and an era with Flying Tigers. He retired from the Tigers after Federal Express completed the acquisition of the famed airlines in 1988.
Jay fed his love of planes and cars throughout his life. He raced sprint cars on local dirt tracks, built small aircraft with his friends and discovered boat-building and sailing. He loved the ocean and taught his children to sail and his son how to fly. He encouraged his daughter and grandchildren to do the same.
Standing 5 feet 10, Jay made up for his short stature with a fair measure of bravado, even though deep down, he carried a big heart and a soft nature. He was known among his best friends as someone who would lend a hand, a tool, or a detailed story on how best to engineer a fix to anyone who asked.
Others regarded him as a consummate tinkerer, handyman, and artist who enjoyed swing and big-band music. He would cut and shape plastic spoons to serve as fairing on his airplane in an effort to boost its speed from 152 to 172 mph. And if he found someone with a shared interest in flying, racing or boating, he’d spend hours discussing ways to gain more horsepower from an engine or ways to fashion sleeker aerodynamics to make a sailboat cut through the water faster.
In addition to work-working, he often tapped his creative side after a breakfast of eggs over medium, burned bacon, rye toast (with extra butter) and ice water. His tip accompanied a paper towel or napkin with his hand-drawn plane, car, or a lighthouse on it, he said, because he said he enjoyed the texture as a relaxing hobby.
Jay was also an animal lover. When his children were in school in the 1970s and ’80s, the Cotting family, spurred by mom Wilma Cotting, trained and raised eight guide dogs. They raised and reared and coached Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and other breeds how to help blind individuals.
Jay was preceded in death by parents Paul Mortimer Cotting and Mildred Grant, brothers Paul Cotting and Bill Cotting, and grandson Grant A. Cotting (U.S. Army, KIA AF IR).
He is survived by his wife, Wilma Cotting; son Craig S. Cotting (Amanda), Corona, CA; daughter Stacy Brito (Jorge), Key Biscayne, FL; brother Peter Cotting, Nehalem, OR; and grandchildren Jessica White, Atlanta, GA, and Branden, Nicholas, Scott and Lucas Cotting, Corona, CA.
His family plans a celebration of life at 1 p.m. May 30 at Miramar National Cemetery in Miramar, CA.
Anyone wishing to contribute to this page with archived pictures or testimonials about Jay is encouraged to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.orgBack To Memorials