• December 4, 2020

Alpine pilot wins prestigious award - Odessa American: Good News

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Alpine pilot wins prestigious award

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Posted: Friday, June 19, 2020 12:07 pm

James Blair has lived much of his life in the air. Recently, he was recognized for his passion with the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award, the most prestigious award given by the Federal Aviation Administration to pilots.

The award is named after the Wright Brothers, the first U.S pilots to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skills and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as “Master Pilots.”

Once the award has been issued, the recipient’s name, city and state will be added to a published “Roll of Honor” located at tinyurl.com/przbx7m.

Over the last 54 years, Blair has logged 14,000 flight hours. His aviation experience grew alongside his primary profession of building towers across the country and overseas, a news release said.

“It was an honor and I was quite surprised,” Blair said of receiving the award in a phone interview.

He said he had to be recommended for it by members of the aviation community.

“They wrote letters to the FAA recommending me for that award,” Blair said.

He said he flew with his father in a PA 12 cruiser when he was very young and that instilled in him the desire to get into aviation.

Blair said he’s been flying so long it’s hard to say what he likes most about it. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1959, training in weather observations.

In 1966, with the help of the VA benefits program, he started flying lessons and soloed on his birthday, June 4th and got his private pilot’s license 30 days later. Blair continued his training earning many advanced certifications including instrument, commercial single-engine and multi-engine, certified flight instructor, crop dusting, commercial helicopter and airframe and power plant mechanical license.

Blair has crop dusted, flown charters, pilot services and flight instruction, performed naval tower inspections and pipeline and powerline patrols, the release said. He has hauled jumpers, gathered cattle and flown air ambulances.

He flies cloud seeding operations for Trans Pecos Weather Modification Association, sits on the airport board of the Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport and can be found regularly at the airport in hangar No. 35 tinkering on his C-175. The release said Blair is always ready, at a split-second notice to go anywhere.

“I’ve enjoyed aviation all my life, so it’s been a good experience,” he said.

His cloud seeding flights take him to Reeves, Loving, Ward and Pecos counties.

“We don’t make it rain; we enhance the rain that’s falling. We create more rain,” Blair said. “We increase the rainfall, but the atmosphere has to be there to generate the rain.”

The group is based in San Angelo, he said, but he’s the only pilot working this area.

“I work basically from just south of Fort Stockton all the way to the New Mexico border. I go out whenever there’s rain, or whenever there’s thunderstorms. Like I went out yesterday (June 17) and seeded the storms around Fort Stockton and up around Pecos and so I only go when there’s storms around,” Blair said.

He still flies for fun sometimes.

“We do some sightseeing from time to time in the mountains and Big Bend. It’s beautiful country. We love to see it,” Blair said.

Born in Arp, Blair said he moved to West Texas in 1975.

Together, he and his wife, Isabelle have five children and five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Odessa, TX

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