Walla Walla pilot awarded FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

David Cheney, who owns Martin Airfield, got his start in flying in the 1940s and continues today.

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COLLEGE PLACE -- More than six decades of safe flying, including teaching others to fly, were celebrated on Saturday, as former Eastern Oregon farmer David Cheney, 81, was award the FAA Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Cheney, who now lives in Walla Walla, is the owner and manager of Martin Airfield, and bought the rundown World War II airfield in 1998.

His career in flying started 1945, when he was a senior in high school and learned about a Navy flight school program. Three years later, Cheney left for training in the Navy's V-5 aviation program in Pensacola, Fla.

Cheney's career includes service during the Korean War and later serving as a commercial pilot for American Airlines and United Airlines. While at American Airlines, Cheney accumulated more than 27,000 hours of flight time and retired from that airline in 1988 with 35 years of service.

He has also been a flight instructor and certified aircraft mechanic. He is a supporter of Young Eagles Rally, which encourages youths to learn to fly, and is a member of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association 604.

Cheney stills flies, and recently restored a 1941 Howard DGA that was used as a trainer aircraft by the Navy during World War II. Cheney started flying the restored aircraft in April 2009 after it had been grounded 23 years.

The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award recognizes pilots who have conducted 50 or more consecutive years of safe flight operations, and exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise. To date, there are roughly 1,550 pilots in the United States who have received the award.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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