At 81, Bob McCann still loves going where eagles dare.
The longtime Forsyth County resident was recently awarded the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, given to those who’ve achieved 50 years or more of safe flying.
“I’ve had some close calls, but never had an accident,” McCann said.
He has, however, had problems with air traffic controllers putting him in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He recalled one occasion when he found himself flying behind a B-52 while crossing over St. Louis.
“I thought it broke the wings of my plane,” he said. “It felt like going through a thunderstorm.”
According to the FAA, the award “recognizes pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years.”
Recipients receive a certificate and lapel pin and are listed on the award’s roll of honor, found online at www.faasafety.gov.
McCann’s love for navigating the wild blue yonder began while he was studying engineering at the University of Missouri.
He paid $700 for his first airplane. Over the years, he has flown for hire and for his own businesses.
McCann did not serve as a pilot while in the Navy, though he has flown a privately-owned, amphibious, military plane.
With some 18,000 hours of navigating the celestial highways under his wings, McCann said safe flight requires focus, concentration, training and rest.
He noted that showing off is likely to cause an accident.
“That’s not the thing to do unless you’re putting on an air show and have practiced for it,” he said, adding that pilots should also be cognizant of the weather and their abilities.
Whether for business or pleasure, McCann’s aerial travels have taken him all over the continental U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico. He has also flown over Alaska and Hawaii.