Teaching an aerobatics standardization course for inspectors with the CAA (Civilian Aeronautics Administration), a predecessor to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), Al Ueltschi especially liked the job and conceded that he may have been a bit “cocky.” Midway through the course with a seasoned Army Air Corps veteran, the pair attempted a half-snap roll. On the previous two attempts, the nose was too high and the plane stalled, but the third time Ueltschi recalled, “everything was unbelievably quiet…I was no longer a pilot, but rather a falling object heading straight for a patch of Ohio farmland.” Ueltschi successfully pulled the rip cord with only 150 feet from the ground and landed in a briar patch. A young boy running to inspect the falling object from the sky, “found a dirt-covered, tattered aviator who was angry and embarrassed in equal measure and spouting a blue streak of curses.” The boy reported to his mother what he had seen, but when she asked what the pilot said, he refused, explaining “mother if I tell you that, you’re going to wash out my mouth with a bar of soap.”
- Became a Pan American pilot in 1941 and was named personal pilot to Juan Trippe, the company’s founder. Ueltschi’s association with Pan Am lasted 25 years.
- In 1951, Ueltschi, with Trippe’s encouragement, opened Flight Safety at La Guardia Airport to train corporate pilots seeking transition or proficiency training.
- Flight Safety expanded to 42 centers worldwide, teaching military, corporate, regional and airline pilots making the skies safer for everyone.
- Ueltschi spearheaded the implementation of Project Orbis, a flying hospital and teaching facility that travels to underdeveloped countries, performing eye surgeries and teaching sight-saving techniques.
The youngest of seven children, Albert Lee Ueltschi grew up on a dairy farm in rural Kentucky. A childhood fascination with aircraft blossomed into an obsession in 1927 as the 10-year-old breathlessly followed Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight. Convinced that aviation was his destiny, a 16-year-old Ueltschi earned money for flying lessons by operating several hamburger stands when he wasn’t attending school.
This entrepreneurial spirit continued during his aviation career, from his days as a daredevil barnstormer to his role as a pilot for Queen City Flying Service and then into his dream job flying for the prestigious Pan American Airways. At Pan American, Ueltschi served as personal pilot for the company’s founder, Juan Trippe. Trippe introduced his young pilot to the movers and shakers in industry, politics and aviation.
During his early days at Pan American, Ueltischi was struck by the lack of continuing training available to most of the corporate pilots he met in pilot lounges and FBOs. He dreamed of creating a company that would offer corporate fliers the same high quality, on-going education available to airline and military pilots. After receiving Juan Trippe’s blessing to develop the concept in his off hours, Ueltschi started FlightSafety. In the 50 years since FlightSafety opened its doors, the company has expanded to 42 centers worldwide and earned a reputation as one of the world’s top training facilities.
Today, FlightSafety trains a broad spectrum of military, corporate, regional and airline pilots. Ueltschi continues to oversee the company, now called FlightSafety International. He has also used it as a springboard for humanitarian ventures, such as Project ORBIS, a flying hospital and teaching facility that travels to developing countries, performing eye surgeries and teaching sight-saving techniques to local medical personnel.
In recognition of his contributions to international aviation safety, Albert Lee Ueltschi was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.
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