Larry Arenholz (right) from the Federal Aviation Administration presents Terry Edmonds, 71, of rural Solon, with the Master Pilot award on February 6 at the annual Iowa Soaring Club’s Banquet in Amana. The Master Pilot award is for 50 years of continuous, safe flying.
Terry Edmonds, of rural Solon, is pictured in front of his Dynamic WT9 airplane at the Iowa City Municipal Airport.
IOWA CITY — Terry Edmonds’ parents made him mow lawns for 25 cents each to pay for his first gasoline-powered model airplane, which cost $12 in 1958.
“It was kind of a good life experience in if you want something bad enough, you have to work for it,” said Edmonds, 71, of Solon. “It also told my parents I was serious about aviation and they supported me from that point on.”
Edmonds did his first solo flight in a real plane on Jan. 10, 1966.
Fifty years later — on Feb. 6 — the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Edmonds the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in recognition of 50 years of continuous, safe flying.
Edmonds and Al Langasek, of Davenport, became the 56th and 57th Iowans to receive the award, presented at the annual Iowa Soaring Clubs Banquet in Amana.
“It’s a big milestone to be incident or accident free for 50 years,” said Larry Arenholz, manager of the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office in Ankeny. “It’s the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots.”
Edmonds has never flown professionally. United Airlines offered him a job as a pilot in the late 1960s, but it meant Edmonds would have to live in a big city serving as a United hub.
“I’m not a big city person,” said Edmonds, who grew up on a farm near Oxford. “By then, I had a really good job here in engineering.”
Edmonds worked 48 years for the University of Iowa Information and Technology Services, retiring completely in 2013 after working with radio transmission for various UI departments.
Edmonds’s passion is sport aviation, which means flying for the sake of flying, not to get from point A to point B. He has a powered airplane, a Dynamic WT9 two-seater, but most often chooses to fly his single-seat DG-800B glider. The glider has an engine that helps it take off, but once in the air, Edmonds cuts the engine and glides on rising pockets of heated air called thermals.
“You learn a lot about meteorology with soaring,” he said about the hobby that runs from April through October.
Edmonds has also learned a lot about aircraft maintenance, which, he said, is key to safe flying.
“When you hear about accidents, there’s usually a series of things that cause it,” he said. “If there’s a little problem, you don’t ignore it. I’m meticulous about the maintenance of my aircraft.”
Flying a glider is tougher, in many ways, than a powered airplane, Edmonds said. He uses computer gauges, intuition and feel to find thermals to keep his glider aloft. An experienced glider pilot can keep the craft in the air for five or six hours.
Edmonds has soared over national parks, taking in the sandstone cliffs of Zion National Park in Utah and the vast chasm of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
At the same time Edmonds got his master pilot award, his wife, Connie, received an award for supporting her pilot all these years.
“I took her for an airplane ride on our first date,” he said.
The couple has two adult daughters, Alana Edmonds of Iowa City and Laura Webber of Solon.
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