Saturday, December 9, 2017

Joseph Pelletier: Pilot, 93, honored by Federal Aviation Administration in Quakertown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Civil Air Patrol Lt. Col. Joseph Pelletier poses with his son Will Pelletier.

Joseph Pelletier, of Upper Gwynedd, was recently awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for his more than 70 years as an airman.

With more than 70 years as a pilot, Joseph Pelletier has spent a lifetime in the clouds.

The 93-year-old’s contributions to aviation were recognized recently when he received the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award during a recent meeting of the Civil Air Patrol Squadron 904 at the Quakertown Airport in Milford.

He thought he was there to see his son, Will Pelletier, make a general presentation to the squadron. But as the speech began, all eyes in the room turned toward him.

“It was a complete surprise,” Will Pelletier said on behalf of his father during a recent phone interview. “His eyes welled with tears. I even broke up a little bit when I began telling him what was going on.”

Will highlighted various moments in his father’s life — including three years with the Army during which he served as a radio operator and was tasked to stay awake throughout the night on D-Day and transmit updates.

Joseph Pelletier dreamed of flying from an early age and received his first lesson in 1944 while still enlisted in the military.

He soon was piloting cross-country flights and became commander of the Lansdale Area Civil Air Patrol Squadron 909, later transferring to Squadron 904, then based in Montgomery Township. He ascended to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Pelletier, who now resides in Upper Gwynedd, attained licenses to fly commercial aircraft and gliders. He has flown hundreds of search and rescue missions as part of the air patrol.

Will Pelletier, a retired firefighter, said his dad first took him flying on his first birthday in 1956.

“All throughout my childhood I flew with him,” said Will, who now works as a corporate pilot and is a Civil Air Patrol member in Bluffton, South Carolina. “He always said I was a natural pilot.”

When his father heads down to visit, Will Pelletier knows exactly what’s on the agenda.

“Every day that he’s down here we’re up there,” he said. “If he’s here a week, we’re flying seven days straight.”

Will said he is making it a point to cherish each moment he has with his dad — in the air and on the ground.

His father’s health is good but communication is difficult, as he wears two hearing aids, Will said, due to a condition developed after being around so many booming engines and whirring propellers.

But Will said his father has no regrets.

“Anytime he was around airplanes, he was totally enjoying it,” he said. “That’s when he’s in his element.”

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