Friday, June 12, 2015

Longtime pilot, 80, has logged 25,000 hours of flying time

Dick and Betty Drilling, left, former operators of Genesee Airways and a partner in Great Lakes Aviation at Genesee County Airport, visits with instructor Pete Lockner at the airport Monday. Drilling, who taught Lockner to fly, lives in Oregon with his wife, and visited the airport to have Lockner give him his biannual flight review.

BATAVIA — Dick Drilling’s name is well-known in the history of Genesee County Airport.

On Monday, Drilling and his wife Betty, who now live in Oregon, visited the airport to rehash old memories with Peter Lockner, the flight instructor whom Drilling taught to fly.

Drilling, who recently turned 80, also took advantage of the visit to have his former student give him his biannual flight review.

 “This is a great way to celebrate my birthday,” said Drilling, who has logged more than 25,000 hours of flying time.

Drilling remembers when the airport was owned by Gil and Eloise Chappel in the mid 1940s and the runway was a grass strip.

After learning to fly and becoming an instructor, Drilling started a flight school, Genesee Airways, and became a partner in Great Lakes Aviation.

He was also a Federal Aviation Administration instructor.

His wife, the former Betty Smith of County House Road, Albion, also learned to fly at the age of 19. She soloed in an Aeronca tail dragger, she said.

In 1986, in Drilling’s words, “I got sick of pounding the ice off my Cessna 172,” and he sold his flight school to Lockner and Don Pophal, and moved to Florida.

He took three of his planes to Lantana, Fla., where he started a new flight school, and left two for Lockner until he could get his operation going in Batavia.

Although he doesn’t own any planes now, Drilling still keeps his ratings current.

As Lockner will agree, “Once you’re bitten by the flying bug, you never get over it.”