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WWII Vet Receives Pilot Certificate After 70-Year Delay

  • WWII Vet Receives Pilot Certificate After 70-Year Delay
    Walter Hughes

September 10, 2015 - Although it should have been issued to him upon his separation from service in 1945, Walter Hughes finally received his private pilot certificate on August 21, 2015, 70 years after leaving the U.S. Army Air Forces.

Marilyn Haymore became inspired to help Hughes, a fellow member of EAA Chapter 1182 in Hilo, Hawaii, to obtain the certificate he never received after hearing of a similar success story at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.

“This summer at [AirVenture] a window of opportunity opened up,” Haymore said. “To make a long story short, a request to all the right people, at all the right times, in all the right places happened.”

Now in his 90s, Hughes served as a B-24 bomber pilot in the 8th Air Force during World War II. While on leave in spring of 1945, he received notice of his separation from service. It was typical at the time for military pilots to receive their private certificate upon separation as they had received extensive flight training and gained experience during service.

However, the office that would have issued Hughes his certificate had just opened and did not yet have the necessary paperwork. The staff there said he could try again in a week, but due to wedding planning and getting his home life organized after being away on duty, he decided to wait a little longer.

“When Walter inquired by letter, six months to a year later, he was told that he would have to re-qualify through ground school and flight-testing, again,” Haymore said.

As time continued to pass, the requirements to obtain his pilot certificate increased, and Hughes would have had to take flying lessons that he not only didn’t need, but also couldn’t afford. Fast forward to 2015, and he still was not certified to fly.

While at AirVenture, EAA’s government advocacy team assisted with Haymore’s mission to help Hughes move forward, finding out which forms and paperwork would be necessary to get his certificate. EAA’s Chris Henry was able to verify Hughes’ training history and flight records, and with all this information, Haymore went to the FAA to see what could be done.

By the time she arrived home in Hawaii, Hughes was at his house with an unopened envelope from the FAA, waiting for Haymore to take part in a long-awaited moment. Hughes was now a certificated private pilot.  

“One very wonderful EAA staff person, having every faith that Walter would be issued his pilot license, said, ‘Good things can happen in Oshkosh during AirVenture week. We call it Oshkosh magic,’” Haymore said. “It did! I’m a believer!”

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