Palmer’s Pas­sion

Jetgala - - CONTENT - By Capt. Ron Rapp

Of the many big names in gen­eral avi­a­tion, Arnold Palmer — the ‘king of golf’ — stood out. His achieve­ments in the air may have matched any­thing he ac­com­plished on the golf course. Think that’s a bit far fetched? Think again. Palmer’s sports ca­reer is well doc­u­mented. But how many know that he pi­loted solo af­ter just six hours of learn­ing to fly? If my own flight in­struc­tor had tried to cut me loose at that point, I would have im­me­di­ately hauled him back into the cock­pit. As they say: “A man’s got to know his lim­i­ta­tions.”

But some men’s lim­i­ta­tions stretch far­ther. In 1976, Arnold cir­cum­nav­i­gated the globe in a Lear­jet 36, do­ing it in a record 57 hours, 25 min­utes, and 42 sec­onds. Com­pared to the 30 to 40 hours logged an­nu­ally by many non-pro­fes­sional pi­lots, he amassed nearly 20,000 hours of flight time in 55 years of fly­ing. That’s an av­er­age of at least 350 hours a year — a fig­ure nor­mally car­ried by air­line pi­lots.

What I love most about this statis­tic is that it tells a love story. Arnold could have eas­ily oc­cu­pied a seat in the back of the plane. In­stead, the depth of ex­pe­ri­ence in his log­book in­di­cates some­one who had a pas­sion for flight that went far be­yond the fi­nan­cial and busi­ness ben­e­fits it of­fered.

Arnold earned my high­est respect dur­ing the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, when he loudly de­fended busi­ness avi­a­tion in one of its dark­est hours. From where I sit, busi­ness avi­a­tion has al­ways been easy to sup­port. Fact is that com­pa­nies that op­er­ate air­craft in fur­ther­ance of their busi­ness do bet­ter. But that wasn’t a pop­u­lar po­si­tion for a pub­lic fig­ure to take in 2008.

Re­mem­ber what an odd time that was? Some folks were ex­co­ri­at­ing users of busi­ness air­craft at the very same time they them­selves were us­ing them. Some grov­elled, as though busi­ness avi­a­tion was a crime against hu­man­ity.

Arnold was proof that busi­ness avi­a­tion pays div­i­dends. While this may be self-ev­i­dent to any­one who takes a look at it today, he was us­ing avi­a­tion to fur­ther his busi­ness in the mid to late 1950s, a time when our in­dus­try barely ex­isted. The first Lear­jet flew in 1963, while Grum­man’s Gulf­stream tur­bo­prop — one of the first se­ri­ous pur­pose-built busi­ness air­craft — didn’t be­gin de­liv­er­ies un­til around 1960.

Palmer was on the lead­ing edge of avi­a­tion as much as of golf. It’s al­most as if he saw the fu­ture. You’ll see that same look in his eye when be­ing pho­tographed on the golf course. That easy smile that says he knows the an­swer, and is con­fi­dent in the di­rec­tion he’s head­ing. He’ll be missed by peo­ple who have never even played golf, and couldn’t use a nine iron if their life de­pended on it.

I know, be­cause I’m one of them. Thanks for ev­ery­thing, Arnie.


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