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B-17 Veteran Receives Honorary B-17 Type Rating
January 14, 2015 - Odbert “Bert” Cornwell, of DeLand, Florida, has been an EAA member since 1965 (EAA 27879) and was one of the founders of EAA chapters 288 in Daytona Beach and 635 in DeLand. He is also a veteran of World War II who was both a pilot and flight engineer in B-17s and B-24s - but mostly B-29s.
When Chapter 635 welcomed EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast to DeLand Municipal Airport for a tour stop this week, Cornwell, 91, was given an opportunity to accompany the promotional B-17 flight for local media on Monday, January 12.
EAA volunteer B-17 pilot Shawn Knickerbocker, a military competency examiner for the FAA, spoke with Bert about his military flying experience.
“As our conversation continued throughout the flight and the day, I realized that Bert never received a B-17 civilian type rating,” he said. Cornwell hasn’t flown as a pilot in command since 2007.
Cornwell proudly shared his U.S. Army Air Corps flight records after the flight was over. Seeing the wonderful service this veteran has given to his country over the years, Knickerbocker was compelled to honor Cornwell’s military accomplishments with an honorary B-17 type rating at age 91!
Knickerbocker has been flying for more than 45 years with in excess of 23,000 flight hours in numerous aircraft types and categories. He has an ATP certificate for airplanes (ASEL & AMEL) and helicopters, plus his commercial ticket in gliders and seaplanes. His many CFI ratings include single- and multiengine airplanes and gliders, CFII airplane and helicopter, and he also possesses a Transport Canada ATP for ASEL & AMEL with type ratings. He is a true example of the quality of pilots that are privileged to fly EAA’s B-17.
Cornwell, who also helped start Chapter 288 in Daytona Beach, recalled the advice he received from EAA Founder Paul Poberezny when he asked how to start a chapter. “Paul told me the first thing to do is find a place to meet, then provide something to eat, and create a newsletter,” he said. Bert served as the chapter newsletter editor for many years as well as president. He was also an EAA technical counselor for Chapter 635, and still attends as many meetings as he can.
He had the dream to build a Pietenpol since he was 14 years old, and later in life started a project. He finished the fuselage, 34 wing ribs, and tail section, but had to abandon the project when his bride of 70 years, June, became ill. She passed away about a year ago.
Cornwell visited Oshkosh twice, first in 1971 when he and one of his students at Embry-Riddle flew up in the Piper Cub the student won in the EAA sweepstakes in 1970. They flew two-hour legs, alternating every stop. The other Oshkosh visit was in 1976 and June came with him.
He also worked for a time in Akron, Ohio, on Goodyear Blimp engines, and even has logged time in ZP3 models. “I’ve flown a bunch of stuff, but that was the biggest thing I ever flew,” he said.