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FAA Award for Pilot

Pinnacle Aviation pilot, Don Wade celebrates 50 Years in the air with prestigious FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Fifty years flying private aircraft is a long time, and is full of many stories, places, events and people. While few pilots reach this remarkable milestone, Scottsdale-based Pinnacle Aviation is honoring pilot Don Wade for reaching this career landmark and receiving a top aviation award bestowed upon him by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) during a special ceremony at Pinnacle Aviation’s headquarters on July 23, 2014.


“We are incredibly proud of Don for earning The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award,” said Curt Pavlicek, CEO for Pinnacle Aviation. “Don has provided exceptional service to the Pinnacle Aviation clients he has flown over the years. His 50 years of flying experience coupled with his acute attention to safety and dedication to flying has been a great attribute to the Pinnacle Aviation team,” he said.

Each year the FAA recognizes pilots who have demonstrated an exceptional lifetime commitment to their vocation with The Wright Brothers Master Award, a rare award reserved for pilots who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years. Only 176 pilots have received this award across the country this year and Wade is the only pilot in the state of Arizona to have received this top honor.

Wade’s passion for flying began at the age of 10 when his grandfather would take him to see the planes at the airport near their Ohio home. “My grandfather would drive me to Port Columbus to watch airplanes. At that time there was an observation deck over the terminal building. There were DC 6 and 7’s and Super Constellations, Convairs and Martins that would start the engines in huge clouds of smoke, thunder down the runway and climb at a great rate of 400 fpm. I remember Lane Aviation next door and their Cessna ads about learning to fly. About a year later I had a bicycle and thought I could remember the way to the airport. So I rode my bike to Port Columbus, without telling my grandparents I would be gone. Upon my return I was immediately grounded for the first time. That was when I learned that it was ok to pursue your dreams, you just have to report to a higher authority your location,” he said.

Wade’s passion for flight even evolved into a dream to become a NASA astronaut. “In my early teens I would assemble models of any plane my allowance would purchase,” he said. “For a while I knew that I would be the first man to walk on the moon, but was crushed when I found out I was too young. All the slots were taken. I did come close to fulfilling the dream of space flight when I got to spend a morning in the space shuttle simulator and worked with Lockheed on orbiter processing. It was one of those between flying jobs that an intelligent person should have kept, but I just loved flying too much to stay at a desk for the rest of my life,” he said.

Now, Wade is one of Pinnacle Aviation’s most decorated Charter Captains responsible for flying the company’s roster of high-profile clients to and from their destinations on one of the company’s meticulous fleet of private aircraft. From Fortune 500 executives to professional athletes, Hollywood actors and politicians, Wade enjoys providing a higher level of service.

Asked what keeps him passionate about his career after 50 years, Wade says that he still gets filled with the same excitement he felt the first time he saw a plane leave the runway at Port Columbus Airport.

“Like Wilbur Wright once said, ‘there is no sport equal to that which aviators enjoy while being carried through the air on great white wings,” Wade said.


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