Springfield WWII bomber pilot honored for clean flying record

A Springfield World War II veteran pilot will be honored Tuesday for having one of the cleanest flying records possible.

Gordon McOwen, a former B-24 bomber pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps and Springfield native, will be presented the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the Federal Aviation Administration.

McOwen said he found out about the honor in one of his aviation magazines and decided to apply.

“I was surprised that they would give an award for such a thing,” McOwen said.

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The Master Pilot award, considered the most prestigious FAA award, is awarded to pilots who “exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft,” according to the FAA.

In order to be eligible, nominees must be at U.S. citizen and have at least 50 years of civil and military flying experience.

McOwen will be honored at the Ohio Masonic home in Springfield on Tuesday, as part of Veterans Roll Call, where he will receive a certificate, a lapel pin and will have his named published in the FAA Roll of Honor.

“Gordon has been a very capable pilot his whole life,” said Joe Stewart, co-chairman of the veterans group at the Ohio Masonic Home, where McOwen lives.

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McOwen, 92, has been around flight his entire life and went on his first solo flight at age 18.

As an aviation cadet in Texas, he was allowed to take flight in a PT-19 monoplane, a plane used primarily for training pilots in the United States Army Air Corps.

McOwen said his most memorable flight was in 1944, when he and five other members of the Air Corps flew a brand-new bomber aircraft from Kansas to England.

McOwen served in the Air Corps from 1941 to 1945.

Due to a loss of hearing, McOwen had to retire from flying air craft, but his last flight brought his career in the air full-circle.

McOwen dates his final flight to 2007, when he flew a replica of the Wright Brothers Model-B biplane, designed by the fathers of flight in 1910.

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McOwen’s son, Charles, said of all the things he learned from his father’s achievements, he’s most proud of how seriously he took his craft.

“Being raised by him, with his regimen and his discipline, it shows me that structure and discipline is the way to go with things,” he said. “The honor of having a World War II veteran as your father and the respect that he gets is enlightening.”

McOwen will be honored at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 14 at Ohio Masonic Home at 2655 W. National Road in Springfield.

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