The aviation world is mourning the passing of FlightSafety founder and industry luminary Albert Lee Ueltschi, who died yesterday at the age of 95.
For many years the personal pilot of Pan Am founder Juan Trippe, Ueltschi is best remembered as the father of modern business aviation training for his pioneering work creating FlightSafety International at the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Born and raised in Franklin County, Kentucky, Ueltschi was the youngest of seven children, who as a teenager opened a hamburger stand in his hometown to pay for flying lessons. He soloed at the age of 16 after breathlessly following the progress of Charles Lindbegh’s solo Atlantic crossing on the radio as a young boy.
Ueltschi began his career as an airline pilot with Pan Am in 1941, and would go on to become one of the world’s first corporate pilots, ferrying Trippe everywhere in converted WWII military transports.
Ueltschi founded FlightSafety a decade later in 1951, serving as its president through its sale to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 1996 until finally stepping down from his day-to-day role 2003. He remained the company’s chairman.
While flying for Trippe, Ueltschi noted that the pilots of business aircraft had no access to the benefits of the formal training that he had experienced as an airline pilot. For this reason, he created FlightSafety Intetnational. Ueltschi remained an active Pan Am pilot until 1968, when he took FlightSafety public. FlightSafety International has since diversified, and today provides aviation training worldwide for commercial, government and military operators.
Ueltschi was also a driving force behind Project Orbis, an international nonprofit aircraft-based teaching eye hospital that since the 1980s has traveled to the world’s less-developed areas to teach sight-saving techniques and surgical procedures. For many years, he served as chairman of Orbis International. In 2010, he was elected chairman emeritus of the organization.
Ueltschi has received numerous awards during his career, including the 1991 FAA Award for Extraordinary Service, the 1994 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the 2001 National Aeronautic Association Elder Statesman Award. In 2001, Ueltschi was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He was also the recipient of the 1991 NBAA Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation and the 2001 NBAA American Spirit Award. In 2006, NBAA established the annual Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership in recognition of the spirit of service demonstrated by humanitarian leaders within the business aviation community.
Ueltschi is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.