Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Jim Kirvida: Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

Jim Kirvida recently received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Like father, like son.

Mitch Kirvida was drawn to the skies as he spent his formative years in North Dakota. 

“He was mechanically inclined and a brilliant engineer,” said his son Jim. “He installed in me the passion of aviation.”

The passion is still there to this day as Jim last month received one of the highest awards the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues – the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. 

The award is named after Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of the first modern airplane. It honors those who have exhibited 50 years of professionalism, skill and aviation expertise. 

“It’s been a lifelong dream to fly,” Kirvida explained. “I never expected to receive this award. I was dumbfounded.

“To be associated with an award that has the Wright Brothers name, it’s very humbling.” 

Kirvida, owner of Custom Fire Apparatus in Osceola, was notified he won the award last month in a small ceremony at the New Richmond airport, where he stores his planes. 

Yet that wasn’t the original plans. Previous award recipients are usually given the award in a ceremony in Washington D.C. When COVID-19 nixed that plan, the next idea was the Oshkosh Air Show held during the summer. COVID washed those plans as well, leaving it to the New Richmond ceremony. 

The eligibility guidelines to receive the Master Pilot Award including holding a U.S. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot certificate; 50 or more years of civil and military flying experience and being a U.S. citizen. 

The recipient also had to have three letters of recommendations. Kirvida said one came from Mark Baker, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. 

“He’s definitely an inspiration,” Kirvida continued. “I’ve taken numerous trips with him. I’m honored to be in his presence.”

Kirvida joined the Navy in 1966 with the assignment of maintaining Naval aircraft. On those weekends, thanks to Mitch, he took flying lessons.

“He inspired my love of flying,” Jim said. “I was bitten by the same bug. He was able to see his son do what he loved to do.” 

He earned his pilot certificate in 1972 and he was off. 

One of the surprising things in all of this is Kirvida isn’t a commercial pilot, meaning he’s never been compensated all these years. His flights have been for sales/service calls for his business and personal. 

While there’s always been a part of him who wishes he were a pilot, commercial pilots have told him, they wish they had his life.

“i still love it,” he said, after all these years despite the yearly certifications, the increase of temporary flight restrictions, which he explained, were hardly around 15-20 years ago. “It makes you feel so young, jumping into an airplane.”

“People fly into their 80s,” he continued, noting a 100-year-old did a solo flight recently. “If I still have my health, I don’t intend to stop.” 

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