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Stringfellow Hawke (portrayed by American actor Jan-Michael Vincent) is a fictional character on the American action-adventure television series Airwolf (1984-1987). During the series' first three seasons, Hawke is its central character. A freelance agent of a division of the CIA known as the Firm, Hawke serves as pilot and custodian of the prototype supersonic attack helicopter for which the show is named.
Born in 1950, Vietnam War veteran Stringfellow Hawke lives in seclusion in a log cabin by a California lake, alongside his Bluetick Coonhound "Tet", named after the 1968 communist Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. When Hawke was twelve, he and his parents were in a boating accident on the lake. He was rescued by his brother Saint John, but their parents drowned. Beginning with this incident, Hawke grows to believe that anyone he loves is destined to die tragically, a belief that subsequent events only serve to reinforce. The orphaned Hawke brothers are raised by Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine), a friend and fellow military aviator of their father's, and an acknowledged but unexplained exception to Hawke's "curse".
Upon reaching adulthood, both Saint John and Stringfellow enlist in the U.S. Army and are dispatched to the front lines of the Vietnam War. Both Hawke brothers prove their valor and piloting skills during the conflict. In 1969, tragedy occurs again when Saint John is separated from his brother and the rest of their unit during a mission. Stringfellow was hospitalized prior to the fall of Saigon and lost contact with his Vietnamese girlfriend, Nhi Huong. Saint John is listed as M.I.A. in Southeast Asia, causing Stringfellow to further withdraw from society.
Hawke returns from the war and earns a Master's degree in Applied Physics. He lives a solitary life in the mountains and uses his cabin’s dock as a helicopter landing pad. He serenades eagles with Levay on his Stradivarius cello, and is an avid fisherman. Hawke has a first-rate art collection, which his grandfather collected for his grandmother. He works with Dominic Santini, his adopted father and mentor (and now also his employer) and the owner of Santini Air (a helicopter service for hire, mostly to the movie-making business).
Hawke also works for Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III (intelligence code name: "Archangel"), deputy project director for the Firm. As Hawke had been chief test pilot for Airwolf during its development program, he is recruited by Archangel as the logical--indeed, the only--candidate to retrieve the helicopter after its designer and builder, Charles Henry Moffet, absconds with it to Libya. Hawke is further convinced to accept the mission by Archangel's assistant Gabrielle Ademaur (Belinda Bauer), with whom Hawke ultimately becomes romantically involved. Hawke accepts the mission on the condition that the Firm hand over classified information on the whereabouts of his missing brother. Thus, Hawke and Santini run the mission to take back Airwolf, and they discover that Moffet has used it to destroy various targets for the Libyans, including an American Destroyer.
Gabrielle goes undercover to thwart Moffet's nefarious plans, but she is detected and captured by Moffet, then tortured and left to die in the desert. At the same time, Hawke and Santini have stolen Airwolf from its compound. Hawke finds Gabrielle, only to have her die in his arms. Hawke hunts Moffet across the desert, and finally kills the fiendish engineer with his own invention. With Airwolf secured, Hawke fulfills his part of the deal with the Firm, but Archangel claims to as yet have no further information about Saint John. Unsatisfied, Hawke hides and booby traps Airwolf in a desert cave and becomes custodian of the aircraft, vowing not to hand it over until the Firm finds his brother. Over the next two and a half years, Hawke pilots Airwolf on a number of national security missions at Archangel's request. Hawke also occasionally pilots Airwolf to save or protect endangered innocents he encounters, to help friends in peril, or to correct injustices. In these adventures, Hawke is commonly supported by Santini, former Texas Highway Patrol officer Caitlin O'Shannessy (Jean Bruce Scott), and occasionally, Archangel himself, who does supply them with the unusual fuel and ammunition which "the Lady" (Dom's nickname for Airwolf) requires. Caitlin is first encountered in the second season premiere, as a helicopter-flying state police officer. Having seen Airwolf in the air and met Stringfellow Hawke separately on the ground, she resigns her position and traces Hawke, by his unusual name, to Santini Air. Both men deny any knowledge of the aircraft she describes, but Dom gives her a job. Eventually, an ill-timed injury to Santini forces them to recruit Caitlin into the Airwolf operation.
In the first episode of Airwolf 's fourth and final season, Stringfellow is critically injured when a bomb planted in one of Dominic Santini's helicopters explodes, killing Santini. "Company" (the Firm having been replaced) administrator Jason Locke (Anthony Sherwood) recruits Major Mike Rivers (Geraint Wyn Davies), who ingeniously locates Airwolf's "Lair" with satellite photos that show the helicopter's prop wash in the surrounding desert sands. To their surprise, Dominic Santini's niece, Jo Santini (Michele Scarabelli) has already found the lair and insists on being part of the operation. They use Airwolf to liberate Saint John Hawke (Barry Van Dyke), who has been working under very deep cover for another agency of US intelligence, from an assignment gone bad. Saint John and Stringfellow reunite in the United States, and Saint John subsequently replaces his wounded brother as the primary pilot of Airwolf (and as the central character of the Airwolf television series). String tells Saint John, "I don't want to die in this place," and his brother carries him out of the hospital. To where and to what fate is not specified.