Cover photo for Rudolf "Rudy" Ernest Mantel's Obituary
Rudolf "Rudy" Ernest Mantel Profile Photo
1932 Rudolf "rudy" 2021

Rudolf "Rudy" Ernest Mantel

March 7, 1932 — November 14, 2021

Rudy Mantel Celebration of Life (1932 - 2021)  

 Video and Slides Link

Lifelong aviator, Quiet Birdman, and beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother, Rudy Mantel, age 89, of Plantation, Florida flew West. He passed away from natural causes on November 14th, 2021 in his home, with family close at his side.

A Celebration of Rudy’s Life will be held on Sunday December 5, 2021, at North Perry Airport. For details contact

Rudy had an extraordinary life. He is lovingly remembered for living it with passion and courage - in the skies and in more earthly endeavors. He was generous, wicked smart, funny, and fun - you could always rely on him for interesting conversation, thoughtful advice, and a joke that was suited (or not) for any situation. He was an entertaining, industrious, and loving man who left this earth with a great impression on many lives.

Born March 7, 1932 in Hamburg, Germany, to Ada and George, he lived later in Vienna Austria, then Podwloczyska Poland, before eventually migrating with his family to Colombia, South America in June 1939 to escape Nazi and Russian threats. They took the maiden voyage of Gdynia-America's “MS Sobieski” from Gdynia to France, then Holland-America's "Simon Bolivar" from Bolougne to Colombia. Rudy felt lucky to have survived (crediting grandfather Jakub) since Poland was invaded soon after in September. It was on this journey that his lifelong passion for flying (and everything related) was set in motion - as a passenger on his first airline flight from Barranquilla to final destination Medellin.

After 2 years in Colombia, Rudy and family immigrated in 1941 to the United States of America. They sailed the Grace Line's “S.S. Santa Rosa,” from Barranquilla to New York and settled in Forest Hills. Here Rudy started flying lessons at 15, before he could drive. He babysat to pay for lessons at both Flushing Airport in Queens, and Miller Field on Staten Island. He soloed at 17, earning a private pilot's license, before his driver's. Grandmother Karola was his first passenger.

After graduating from Forest Hills High School, Rudy attended the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where on a blind date he met Jane, destined to become his wife. Shortly afterwards they married in 1954, marking the start of their lifelong adventure together. Following their honeymoon in Daytona Beach, Rudy put his studies on hold and served in the U.S. Air Force for 2 years. Parents Ada and Sevie were pleased when Rudy re-enrolled at Georgia Tech. He continued flying during summers and holidays, with Jane at his side, working as a flight instructor in San Antonio, Texas, and crop duster in Louisiana.

In December 1957 Rudy graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Management. Afterwards he continued pursuit of a flying career, as associate to college friend Sam Poole. They operated the Zephyrhills FL airport, instructed, flew air ambulance, and flew a converted Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon for a tropical fish company, taking fish from Leticia Colombia on the Amazon River, to Bradenton, FL. It was a great education.

As fate would have it, Rudy stopped to refuel in Montego Bay during flights to and from Colombia, and recognized the opportunity to start a local flight charter operation. With a bold decision to pursue this dream, they moved to Jamaica in January 1959. What followed were an amazing 22 years in Montego Bay. Here Rudy and Jane grew their single plane flight charter operation, Jamaica Air Taxi, into a larger company, and eventually into a scheduled flight and charter operation, Trans Jamaican Airlines, a successful partnership with the Jamaican government. Over time Rudy employed many people, including 70+ pilots, some of whom he mentored and trained. Throughout the years former pilots often expressed appreciation for his leadership and care, crediting him with raising the bar and providing a solid foundation for their careers.

Along the way Jane and Rudy had three children, Kathy, David, and Joe, and made treasured lifelong friendships and memories. Rudy also re-connected with a childhood hobby and amassed a significant and interesting collection of rare Jamaican stamps. He eventually sold them at Christie's London, in an auction dedicated solely to his collection.

While in Jamaica, Rudy trained in the art of aerobatics using his biplane, the Pitts Special S1S. For several years he delighted in performing air shows across the island and competing in one or two U.S. National Aerobatics Championships in Texas.

Cessna appointed Rudy as their Jamaica dealer in 1960, and he remained so until returning to the U.S. He acknowledged the dealership as a key ingredient to his overall success in Jamaica. Throughout the years, Rudy often reflected on his deep gratitude to new Jamaican friends, business acquaintances, staff, and partners, for the help they generously extended. They were instrumental to Rudy and Jane realizing success in their business ventures. Rudy and Jane were amazed by their warm welcome, and were everlastingly grateful.

In 1980, at age 48, Rudy and family bid Jamaica farewell to start a new phase of life in the U.S. After settling in Plantation, Florida, Rudy stayed close to aviation for the next several years, remaining on the Trans Jamaican Airlines Board of Directors for another 9 years, working in Miami and Fort Lauderdale as an aviation insurance adjuster and in sales. For one season in 1983 he returned to his early roots as a crop duster pilot - running a crop-dusting business (and flying) in Leesburg, Georgia, with wife Jane and sons David and Joe in tow.

When he wasn’t piloting aircraft, Rudy pursued flying-related hobbies such as building intricate, beautiful, and realistically-finished plastic to-scale model airplanes. He also skillfully crafted and flew U-control model airplanes and eagerly shared these experiences with family, friends, and community. He continued to enjoy technical discussions on flying and aircraft, with friends both new and old – in a jovial atmosphere, frequently over food and drinks. He had always dreamed of flying the World War II era P-51 Mustang, and made a special trip to Texas to make it happen. He also took up motorcycling on a Honda Gold Wing, taking an adventurous trip from Plantation to upstate Clinton New York where he visited good friends there and at stops along the way. The journey included a memorable ride on Skyline Drive, along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

In the early 1990s Rudy purchased a Cessna 172, and taught sons David and Joe to fly. Joe earned his commercial, and David his private pilot's license. The time Rudy and sons spent flying together was a priceless experience for both father and sons.

Around the same time Rudy’s interest returned to drafting. He was gifted and had developed skills as a young draftsman in the Air Force. But this time around was different – the advent of powerful personal computers meant he could use “computer aided design” to enhance his work. Simultaneously, fate struck again when Jane shared with him a newspaper article on 3D computer animations for aviation accident reconstruction. With this in mind, Rudy re-vectored his career path with Jane’s unwavering support, and established a 3D computer animation business. For the next 20+ years, Rudy and Jane ran a successful company that produced 3D computer animation videos, primarily for forensic accident reconstruction. One of Rudy's early videos was the first forensic computer animation admitted into U.S. courts. Rudy clearly saw the power and potential for personal computers and was an early adopter. For example, in the mid 1980’s he used Lotus 123 spread sheets to analyze and solve aviation business problems, and later taught daughter Kathy to use it in her research, saving her hundreds of hours of work. Finally in the 1990’s he used advanced 3D computer aided design software for his computer animation business.

In 2000, Rudy’s lifelong passion for flying, strong as ever, led to him to purchase a Cessna 170B, a taildragger, dear to his heart from his early days of flying. He very much enjoyed flying it from his hangar at North Perry Airport, often taking his children and grandchildren for joyful rides. Rudy also donated time and aircraft to fly people in need through the Angel Flight charitable organization.

After a long semi-retirement, Rudy fully retired in 2015, and continued to enjoy time with family, which had grown to include three grandchildren who happily spent summers and holidays with their grandparents.

Throughout his later years Rudy continued to enjoy reading and regularly emailed cartoon jokes to friends and family, known as “Friday Funnies.” Rudy would punch up the humor with a fitting title, that left one wanting more. With the same gusto he stayed up to date on local, national, and world events - Rudy was always a loyal U.S. Patriot. As before, Rudy continued to relish time with his friends – often in lively conversation over dinner and drinks. Those at the table included close friends made along the way in Jamaica, the U.S., and around the world, to include lifelong friends dating back as far as elementary school.

When he stopped flying 'actual' airplanes, Rudy’s never-ending passion took the form of flying small remote-control drones. He expertly flew them with great pleasure - on the front lawn and inside the house - to the entertainment of both family and friends.

One would be remiss to not mention Rudy’s unforgettable fine sense of humor that was always present throughout his life. His gifted storytelling, joke-telling, and laughter lightened the mood, and enraptured the attention of many a room filled with family and friends. He was also a patient and attentive listener, who provided insightful advice, and heartily enjoyed the humor of others.

Rudy’s journey through life followed the call of his passion for flying and aviation. And along this path he accomplished wonderful things, including: marrying his beloved Jane; raising a loving family; building close friendships; and, creating and operating successful businesses that provided useful products and services to communities at large.

Rudy Mantel is survived by wife Jane, daughter Kathy Lebegue (Arnaud), son Dave Mantel (Rita), sister Elizabeth, and grandchildren Caroline, Christian, and Jacques Lebegue. He was pre-deceased by his parents, and youngest son Joe.

Rudy was blessed - “I've had a hell of a good life!” - as a beloved husband, father, brother, father-in law, grandfather, son, cousin, friend, advisor, provider, gift giver, protector, story-teller, teller of jokes, manager, business owner, pilot, mentor, traveler, pioneer, challenge taker, plan maker, engineer, voracious reader, cartoon sharer, current events keeper upper, letters to the editor writer, lover of sushi and steak, and entertaining host to family and guests around the table.

His family rejoices in and cherishes so many precious memories of their time together. At the same time they miss him dearly - for he was a humble giant among men, literally and figuratively. He was one of a kind and they will love him forever... without end.

Donations in memory of Rudy may be made to Shriner's Hospitals for Children at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Rudolf "Rudy" Ernest Mantel, please visit our flower store.


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