top of page

Earl Downs 

FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

May 2020

(Because of COVID-19 quarantine issues, the FAA could not present the award to Earl in person. The following is Earl’s response to receiving the award.)


As an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, I report to an assigned FAA manager for guidance and continued training. Several years ago my FAA manager suggested I apply for the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. I thought it would be nice, but didn’t take action to move on his suggestion until early into the year 2020.


Application for the award requires that the recipient have: no less than 50 years in aviation as a pilot, no record of FAA violations or accidents, and have letters of recommendation attesting to worthiness to receive the award.


Having first soloed in August 1957, the 50 years of flying requirement was no problem and my record with the FAA was clear of any FAA actions or aircraft accidents. However, seeking out other pilots that I have worked with, tested, or trained since I entered the aviation training business in 1962 was a bit challenging because I have been at this business for so long.


As it turned out, my search for sponsors turned out to be rewarding and emotionally gratifying. Retired airline captain and fellow EAA Chapter-1046 member, Wayne Whittington, and EAA chapter-1046 member Steve McGuire both chipped in to help with their views of my activities in the promotion of recreational aviation and aviation safety. Retired airline captain, Donna Bridges wrote of our shared experiences during my career in the training division at Trans World Airlines. Bob Poole, who was an early student of mine in the 1960s, provided insights as to how this early training led to his long and varied career in aviation. I offer my sincere thanks to these fellow aviators who supported me.


I must admit that when my flying friends urged me to apply for this award, I felt that it was a bit self-aggrandizing. However, I hope that being recognized for my career in aviation with an award as prestigious as this will help me as I continue to encourage a younger generation to follow in my footsteps and to also encourage an existing generation to listen to me when I rattle on about the need for constantly improving aviation safety.


My activities in aviation have led me to follow the guidance of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the Federal Aviation Agency, and now, the Federal Aviation Administration. I take pride in being a member of the aviation family, and I am proud of the path in aviation I have taken.

bottom of page