- Associated Press
Saturday, February 6, 2021

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Scott Tomlinson took his first solo flight as a pilot when he was only 16 years old.

It’s been 50 years since that flight, and Tomlinson recently joined a prestigious list of pilots honored by the Federal Aviation Administration. And all his years as a pilot have been free of accidents.

The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, named for aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, is given to master pilots who have “exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise” for at least 50 years.

“My dad was an Army aviator; he taught me how to fly,” Tomlinson said. “I joined the Army when I was 18.”

Tomlinson, who currently works for Amentum Services as a flight instructor at Fort Rucker, went through Warrant Officer Candidate School and flight training at Fort Rucker. He completed his training in 1973 and spent the next 10 years flying for the Army. He left the service to attend seminary school but returned to the Army as a chaplain for another 12 years while also working as a civilian flight instructor. For the past 14 years, he has worked as a flight instructor at Fort Rucker.

The FAA considers nominations for the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award based on both civil and military flying experience. The required 50 years begins from the date of the nominee’s first solo flight or military equivalent. Up to 20 of the 50 years may be military flying experience.

Along with a certificate, the recipients receive the distinction of joining a long list of master pilots who have been honored throughout the years.

Tomlinson, 66, is a Pennsylvania native and now lives in the Bay Springs area of Houston County. He said receiving the Wright Brothers Master Pilot distinction is an honor, and he’s thankful he has made it as long as he has with no flight accidents.

“It’s a little bit more risky than just driving a car,” he said.

Tomlinson remembers flying with his dad when was as young as 5 years old. He figures it was around that same age that he decided he too wanted to be a pilot.

These days, he enjoys helping young soldiers at Fort Rucker develop their own flying skills.

“It’s kind of fun to watch people learn a new skill,” Tomlinson said. “They drill in us all the time that learning is a change of behavior as a result of experience. We’re giving these young men and women experience so they can become good and safe pilots for the Army.”

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