Friday, May 11, 2012
At age 84, Roanoke County man still flies with Eagles
Have you heard?
'Have you heard?'
- Urban Professional League debuts awards for professional achievement
- Wells Fargo makes 2 donations in area
- Dancing with the Valley Stars dancers step up donations
- Seniors may renew vows on Feb. 14 at Elm Park Estates
- Kroger customers donate $10,000 to effort aimed at fighting cancer
The cost of fuel probably has been a hindrance to William Mistele's flying, but his days of soaring in his four-seat 1979 Cessna 182Q Skylane are far from over.
"It's so very expensive to fly an airplane," said Mistele, quickly adding that his piloting is now for pleasure and with the Young Eagles program.
Mistele pays about $6.50 a gallon for fuel to fly his Cessna Skylane all around the eastern United States.
Mistele, who is 84, has logged more than 3,300 hours in the sky as a commercial and pleasure pilot.
As part of the Young Eagles organization, the north Roanoke County resident also has given more than 200 youngsters their first airplane rides.
Mistele, who is also a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, recently was recognized for his aviation skills when the Federal Aviation Administration presented him with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
The award honors pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe flying operations for 50 years or more.
This means having had no accidents and no FAA rules violations as a pilot in command, said Mistele, who learned to fly in 1955 and has owned and flown airplanes ever since.
Recipients receive a certificate and a lapel pin and are recognized on the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award Roll of Honor at faasafety.gov.
Mistele said he and the late Wilton Little are the only two Roanoke Valley pilots to have received the award.
Mistele is a World War II veteran, but he wasn't in aviation then — he started flying while living in Georgia.
In the 1950s, Mistele barnstormed in a Ford Tri-Motor and gave airplane rides to flying enthusiasts for $2.50.
A father of eight, Mistele said he couldn't persuade any of his children to choose an aviation career. But he's proud of all of them, especially Timothy, Thomas and Michelle, who graduated as valedictorians from Roanoke Catholic (Timothy) and Northside High (Thomas and Michelle).
"Pilots are very skilled people," said Mistele, who still flies for pleasure and "whenever the weather is nice" with his wife Geanna as a passenger co-pilot.
"I enjoy the air, whether as a passenger or pilot," he said.
During his 50-plus-year flying career, Mistele has been active in the aviation community.
He founded and operated an avionics company, instructed pilots in flying hot air balloons and participated in the old Roanoke Airport Appreciation Days. He also has participated in flying events in Wisconsin, Florida and overseas.
Mistele said he also worked at the Smithsonian Institution, restoring the Enola Gay B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
He also is a founding member of the American Air Museum in Duxford, England, and has visited the Air Museum in Beijing.