Springfield pilot awarded FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

Batesole with award. Photo provided

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – At the recent New England Soaring Association annual meeting, longtime NESA member, tow airplane pilot, and Certified Flight Instructor Bill Batesole was presented the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots. Named after the Wright Brothers, the award recognizes individuals who have exhibited exemplary aviation expertise, distinguished professionalism, and steadfast commitment for at least 50 years of piloting experience.

Batesole’s introduction to flying was a glider flight lesson in May 1970 from Johnnycake Airport near Torrington, Conn., and he began flying gliders at Hartness State Airport in Springfield, Vt. in 1972.

In early 1975 he achieved the Certified Flight Instructor-Glider rating and instructed first in Waterbury, Conn., and later at the prestigious Schweizer Soaring Academy at Harris Hill in Elmira, N.Y.

Following graduation from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1978, he began piloting for Precision Airlines at Hartness Airport, eventually becoming the company’s Chief Pilot. In 1983 he joined Federal Express, now FedEx, and during the next 36 years flew the Airbus 310, Boeing 727, 757, 767, and 777. He flew the Boeing 727 for 17 years, 7 years as a “Check Airman,” training and evaluating other company 727 pilots.

For several years he was based in Germany, flying FedEx freight routes across Europe, before returning to the U.S. and his Walpole, N.H. residence. From there, he commuted to Hartford/Bradley Airport, and deadheaded on a FedEx or airline flight to Memphis. From Memphis, most assignments took him to Alaska, Japan, Taiwan, and China, with an occasional trip to Europe.

During more than fifty years in aviation, he has accumulated more than 20,000 hours of flight time, more than 1900 hours in gliders, translated two soaring books from German to English and helped edit many articles for the Vintage Glider Club magazine. As an FAA certified aircraft mechanic, he has rescued many antique airplanes and gliders, restoring them, or matched them up with their forever homes. A 1929 Butler Blackhawk airplane discovered in a barn in upstate N.Y. he reunited with the family in Wisconsin who had once owned it. Now restored, it is the only airworthy Blackhawk that still exists. A sampling of the many aircraft he has owned or restored include a 40 HP Piper J3 Cub, several Piper Super Cubs, Cessna Airmasters, a Cessna 150 and 1957 Cessna 182, a Carat motorglider, two Schweizer 2-33 training gliders, and a Schweizer 1-26 glider, serial number 003.

During his FedEx career he remained involved in soaring at Harris Hill as a member of the Vintage Glider Club and longtime National Soaring Museum Trustee and current Board President. He has held nearly every position with New England Soaring Association at Hartness, and currently is a member of the Board of Directors and is both a club instructor and tow plane pilot. His volunteerism to aviation includes numerous Aviation Career Education camps and Young Eagles flights.

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