ALPENA — Herron resident Bill Kelley got the flying bug when he was a kid right after World War II.
“When I was a kid the P-51s and the AT6s used to fly over the farm and do some of their dog fights and some of their training,” Kelley said. “I was in awe of some of those and I really wanted to fly.”
And spoiler alert, Kelley did get to fly, in fact Monday the Federal Aviation Administration will present Kelley with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50 years of safe flying during the Alpena Experimental Aircraft Association’s meeting.
Club President Don Grabiel said the presentation by FAA officials will follow a cookout reception and club meeting.
The recognition signifies that in Kelley’s 50 years of aviation he has never had an accident or incident in more than 3,000 hours of flight.
The retired school teacher said when he got done with college and began teaching he decided to begin flying lessons in April 1966. Kelley began some lessons at the Alpena County Regional Airport and when he began teaching in Mount Clemens he took lessons there on a Cessna 150, a training aircraft. And Kelley kept flying after he finished flight school.
“I finally got my commercial license and my instrument rating,” he said.
He eventually got a flight instructors license and aircraft mechanics license.
He still flies as often as he can and still uses his original aircraft he bought in 1966, a Cessna 140 that was built in the 1940s.
Kelley said he feels like it has not been 50 years since he started flying and said one of his favorite flying adventures was a trip in his Cessna 140 from Michigan to Alaska.
“It took quite a while to get ready for that and it was an interesting trip,” he saidl “I got to fly over the prairie and the mountains,” he said.
According to Kelley he did not have GPS navigation at the time, and he has very many “modern” equipment elements on his plane.
“I had what they called a Nav Com, a radio for navigation and communication and that was it, no GPS and no other navigation aids,” he said.
Grabiel said the association is a group of people locally who are interested in aviation. Many have kit built aircraft, but not all.
“For instance I built my own airplane and fly it,” he said. “We have quite a few guys who fly certified airplanes that were manufactured by regular airplane manufacturing companies.”
Grabiel said Kelley’s award is significant for Kelley and the club.
“I think it’s a wonderful sign of the FAA showing pilots that their mission is safety in aviation, for someone not to have any accidents or incidents that is wonderful, that is a good thing,” he said.
Jason Ogden can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.