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Never Too Old: Octogenarian Earns Sport Pilot Certificate


Karl Klingelhofer
Karl Klingelhofer earned is sport pilot certificate earlier this month at age 86.

Karl credits his flight instructor, Parrish Traweek
Karl credits his flight instructor, Parrish Traweek, of PC Aircraft in San Manuel, Arizona, with encouraging him to stick it out and earn his sport pilot ticket.

September 19, 2012 - Karl Klingelhofer, EAA 1089537, of Tucson, Arizona, recently realized a long-held dream when he passed his checkride to earn his sport pilot certificate. Flying in an Ercoupe 415C owned and operated by PC Aircraft at San Manuel Airport, Karl got his ticket on September 1.

Karl is 86 years old.

The late-blooming aviator said flying was a "bucket list" item after his wife of 60 years passed away in November 2008. "When she died I had to form a new second half of my life," Karl explained. He put flying lessons on the top of his bucket list.

"Flying had always been a passion but I preferred to use my money to travel with her," he explained. They traveled extensively, visiting 43 countries over the years.

Growing up in central Illinois, Karl enlisted in the Army Air Corps Cadet Program in 1944 during his senior year, hoping to fly P-38 fighters. But that never happened as the war wound down and his cadet class shrunk from 50 members to 12 after nine months.

The only flights Karl was able to get while serving on the military were in a T-6 in Yuma and in the bomb bay of a B-25 heading home on a furlough.

Fast-forward to October 30, 2009, date of his first bucket list flight lesson at Marana Regional Airport, Arizona, in a Remos LSA. He had nine other lessons before moving to the closer San Manuel. His first lesson there was April 23, 2010, in an Ercoupe 415C, with instructor was Parrish Traweek of PC Aircraft.

"I didn't have a defined goal at this time except to fly, learn to land, and get to where I could solo," Karl said. He finally soloed on September 21, 2010, but his instructor encouraged him to continue training, and he did. He flew his first solo cross-country flight in April 2011.

He still had yet to take his written exam, so he focused on studying for that, ultimately passing with an 85 in March 2012. All that remained now was his checkride and he would be a pilot. Further encouragement from Traweek convinced him to go for it. "You are a good pilot and you can do it," his CFI told him.

After a trip to South Africa and his first visit to AirVenture Oshkosh, Karl prepared for his checkride with Traweek and assistant instructor Jack McIntyre. He passed the oral exam, and even though his first scheduled checkride was weathered out, 10 days later - September 1, 2012 - he passed and is now a certificated sport pilot.

"What will I do with it? Who knows? Time will tell," he said. "My logbook shows 85 hours in the air, 15 hours solo, with 344 landings - 50 solo. Guess I am a slow learner."


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