It all began on November 9, 1931, or maybe it was March 15, 1903, the day of my mother’s birth. I have always felt that my mom’s arrival at this “significant” time in aviation had something to do with my early interest in flying. My dad, a man who would never go near an airplane, bought me model airplanes for Christmas on his meager income when I was very young. He must have foreseen something. I remember I received a Catalina PBY model airplane for Christmas in 1941. At that time, this was the type of plane that was heavily involved in war operations in the South Pacific.
When I was about seven years old, I had my first encounter with a real airplane. On a Sunday summer drive with my family, we stopped at a grass field where a barnstormer was giving rides in a bi-plane. Three years later we were in World War II, and that is when I really began to focus on airplanes. I did not know how I would be able to do it, but I knew that someday I had to fly. As the war progressed, my dad and my older sister went to work for Eastern Aviation (GM) in Tarrytown, New York. They built wings for the Grumman TBM Avenger. That’s when I really got close to an airplane, and I actually got to sit in the cockpit. That was a real blast for a 13 year old boy.
During these war years, there were formations of bombers and fighters who flew low over WestchesterCounty on training flights, especially during War Bond Drives. I could not wait to get into the military. Two years later, at the end of the war and at age 15 I joined the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). My first flight in a real airplane occurred in the winter. I remember it was a very cold and windswept day in February on top of a hill in Somers, New York. It eventually became a ski area. At an encampment at Stewart Army Air Base that summer, got a ride in a B25 Mitchel.
I left the CAP when I turned 17 years old, and I started flight training. In order to pay for my lessons, I got jobs mowing lawns and rolling tennis courts. The pay was exceptional for that period of time. I believe the people I worked for were trying to help me achieve my goal. God bless them. I spent a total of $80.00 out of my pocket to get my Private Pilot License. That’s 1950 year dollars. On June 26, 1950 I graduated from high school. It was the beginning of the Korean War. On July 19, 1950 I received my Private Pilot License.
On March 5, 1951 I enlisted in the United States Air Force. I attended a military electronics technical school at Lowery Air Force Base. The completion of that training qualified me to be an armament fire control systems technician servicing radar systems and machine guns on F94 all-weather fighters. In November 1951, I was then assigned to the 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Larson AFB in Moses Lake, Washington. In February of 1952 we received orders for the whole squadron to pack up and move to K13 Air Base in Suwon, Korea. After 11 months, I returned from Korea and spent another 6 months in school for the F86D Fighter. I was then sent to Perrin AFB in ShermanTexas. While there I had the biggest thrill I would have in the US Air Force. I flew back seat in a T33 Jet Trainer on a chase mission for an F86D during rocket firing practice on a sleeve towed behind a B29. This was the summer of 1954.
The following March I received my discharge from the service. I found employment in New York, and continued working as a radar system technician at the same company for 41 years. During that time, I also proceeded with my flight training, and I have acquired the following certificates and ratings: ATP/CFI/CII/MEI/SEL. I have been a pilot now for 63 years, and I have 11,100 hours of total flight time. Of that total, 9,400 of those hours have been dedicated to flight instruction for the past 29 years. In June of 2012, I was honored with the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” award.