HDD Pioneers Hugh O’Donnell, Fred Britt Pass Away

Hugh W. O’Donnell, 68, passed away on Feb. 26, in Ft. Bend County, Texas.
O’Donnell was born in Shreveport, La., on Feb. 11, 1938. He was devoted tohis family, his friends and his career. Hugh’s passion for flying and historywas passed on to everyone he touched.

A recognized expert in the field of using horizontal directional drilling(HDD) for pipeline construction under waterways and other obstructions,O’Donnell worked in a number of countries throughout his career. He worked withengineering, pipeline transmission and pipeline construction companies, such asUnited Gas Pipeline Co., Texas Eastern Transmission Corp., Pyburn & OdomInc., Titan Constructors Corp. and Reading & Bates Construction Co., and heworked on the Mile-by-Mile Design Team for the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

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In 1991, Hugh received two patents for underwater pipe alignment andconnection devices. He was a founder, president and CEO of SPIE HorizontalDrilling from 1984 until retiring in 1992 to begin his consulting firm,O’Donnell Associates Inc. He received his bachelor’s and master’s of sciencedegrees in civil engineering from Louisiana Polytechnic University (nowLouisiana Tech) in Ruston, La., in 1963 and 1965, respectively.

He was involved in the establishment of the Louisiana Tech TrenchlessTechnology Center (TTC) in 1990 and was a member of its Industry Advisory Boardfor Civil Engineering. O’Donnell received the Distinguished Civil EngineeringAlumnus Award in 1991. A long-time member of the ASCE, he worked on committees,authored papers and spoke at numerous engineering programs. He also was a memberof the Pipe Liners Club of Houston, the Gulf Coast Trenchless Association (GCTA)and the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT).

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O’Donnell’s love of flying developed at an early age as he watched the WWII“Warbirds” flying over his house in the 1940s. His dream of learning to fly cametrue when he received his first flying lessons as an award for his participationin high school ROTC. Throughout college, he was active in the Wings and PropsFlying Club at Louisiana Tech and he received his private pilot license in 1964.He regularly flew his 1977 Cessna 182, which he has owned since 1984, but hisreal love was the 1945 Piper L-4, that he and two friends recently restored.

O’Donnell’s interest in history and authenticity led to the plane’sappearance as a member of the U.S. Army 36th Infantry Division, which was basedin Texas. In recent months, Hugh had the honor of flying several WWII pilots inthe L-4, bringing back memories to them and enhancing his own experience andknowledge of that era. O’Donnell liked to share his interest in flying withothers and he did so through his participation in the Commemorative Air Force,which maintains and flies WWII airplanes, and the EAA Young Eagles program,which enabled him to give the first flying experience to children.

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James Fredrick Britt, 63, one of the early pioneers inhorizontal directional drilling (HDD), passed away on Jan. 22, in Oklahoma City,Okla.

Fred earned his bachelor of science in engineering degree from HendersonState University, Arkadelphia, Ark. He worked for 30 years in Pipeline andDirectional Drilling management, was employed by ARMI Contractors, Fayetteville,Ark.
Fred was born in Attwood, Tenn., in 1943 and was raised in Glenwood,Ark. He had been a teacher of chemistry before being hired in 1978 by TitanWestern Contractors (the first HDD contractor). He was an integral part of theColonial Pipeline Project to place the first large pipe (40 in. by 2,000 ft)under the Houston Ship Channel near Pasadena, Texas.

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Martin Cherrington, president Titan Western & Cherrington Corp. and nowof Cherrington Corp., always remembers Fred’s statement when he was purchasingan item. As Fred talked to a vendor, whether he knew the vendor or even if hehad never purchased the product, he would say, “I’ve never paid so much for thatitem before!”

Fred’s commitment to the projects that followed made him one of the mostknowledgeable people in the HDD industry. He also worked for Reading & Batesand Robert B. Somerville Pipeline Contractors. He later became a consultant formany companies on numerous HDD projects, including time spent in Indonesia.
He is best remembered for his driving personality with a great “can do”attitude and his enthusiasm to help others learn about HDD. Fred will be longremembered as one of the people that helped expand HDD to its prominencetoday.

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