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By Ralph C. (Chuck) Pingel
October 8, 2015 - This is a photograph of my dad that I took one afternoon when several family members gathered at the airport for a fun day and rides in my brother’s Cessna 195. This is the same type of aircraft, completely refurbished, that Dad himself had owned in the 1950s.
As he approaches his 93rd birthday, I can only imagine the flood of memories he must have had in this moment. Perhaps he recalled his 60-plus years in aviation and over 35,000 hours of flying time. Or maybe he sat remembering his time in WWII flying B-17s or his time in the Korean War. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross—which outside of the Medal of Honor is the highest an officer in the U.S. Air Force can be awarded. That’s not even to mention being awarded the Air Medal four times. After the war, he owned a crop dusting service for several years and he also operated a FBO in Farmington, Missouri from the early 1960s into the 1990s.
Dad passed along his passion and love of aviation. His wife, my mother, and all eight children took flying lessons; five of us soloed and four went on to get their certificate. The oldest daughter has her private and instrument ratings, and his three sons are professional pilots (one airline and two corporate pilots). Among these four children are seven airplanes, including a Piper Twin Comanche, a Cessna 195, a Cessna 210, a Piper Cherokee 235, a Piper Cherokee 180, a Piper J-3 Cub, and a 7EC Champ. As he sits and watches his family fulfill their own dreams and love for aviation, I can only hope that our Dad realizes how powerful his influence was on so many.
He passed along the passion and love of aviation to his family and also the hundreds of pilots that were trained at his FBO for over 30 years. The entire family worked at the FBO throughout those years and met thousands of aviation-loving people. It was a great experience growing up at that airport, our proverbial family farm. And for all the inspiration, I just want to say “Thanks Dad.”