FAA honors Brighton man for half-century of flawless flight
Brighton – The memory of a 1989 flight from Riverside, California to Pontiac has stayed with Mario Pecchia.
“I was in awe of being able to see everything around me” said Pecchia, 72, who lives in Brighton. Pecchia flew a two-seat plane with his son, David, who was 15 at the time.
This flight is one of many that Pecchia has taken since he started flying lessons when he was 22.
Now, 50 years later, he is still involved with airplanes.
Pecchia was awarded the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot award during a ceremony at the Spencer J. Hardy Airport for 50 years of flying planes without a violation or accident. He works part-time at the airport.
“I’m very honored receiving it,” Pecchia said.
Aircraft has been a theme in Pecchia’s life since he was a child living in Italy; he came to the U.S. in 1958 when he was 12 with his mother, sister and brother. His father came to the U.S. in 1957 for work.
“It’s a very unique club,” he said of pilots. “Very few people get the opportunity to fly or own their own airplane.”
Pecchia received his pilot’s license in 1969 while he was stationed in Puerto Rico as a member of the U.S. Air Force, where he was a plane mechanic.
“To keep from getting bored, I took up flying,” Pecchia said.
He has met many friends through flying airplanes, including fellow members in the Michigan Air National Guard Aero Flying Club at Willow Run Airport near Ypsilanti. He flies planes through the organization because he does not own his own plane.
Dave Schrader is a friend of Pecchia, the flying club’s safety officer and the man who nominated Pecchia for the award.
Pecchia’s accomplishment is an incredible one, Schrader said, because pilots have to undergo medical evaluations to keep their license and keeping in good health to fly at an older age is difficult.
“The odds are working against you for your medicals; the medical process is pretty difficult,” Schrader said. “You have to be concerned with your health in order to achieve flying at a later age.”
He said the group of pilots who achieve that is fairly small.
“When you work toward something, you value it a lot more. You have a different appreciation for it,” Schrader said.
Airport Manager Mark Johnson said Pecchia is the first airport employee to receive the award.