DES MOINES, IOWA — Friends, family, and aviation supporters gathered at Elliott Aviation at the Des Moines International Airport on Thursday September 24 to see Paul Siedenburg receive the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for more than 50 years of safe flying.
Siedenburg’s career began in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. He instructed in B-26s and B-24s and barnstormed in a Waco UPF-7. He flew himself in corporate aircraft as an executive, then flew charter after his retirement from the corporate world. The minimum qualification for the award is 50 years of accident and violation-free flight; Siedenburg had 64 years.
Siedenburg’s dream of flying began at a young age. The first time he saw an airplane was 1933, when he was 8 years old. His first ride was in a Ford Tri Motor, which was giving rides to passengers at Savanna, Illinois, where Siedenburg spent his childhood and young adult life. Riding on this plane meant that an adult was required to purchase a ticket and then that adult could choose someone to ride with him free. Siedenburg said he stood the entire day waiting for an adult who was alone to purchase a ticket, so he could ask if he could ride as their free passenger. It was worth the wait. At 9:30 p.m., that a man who was alone bought a ticket and allowed Siedenburg to be his free passenger.
Siedenburg got his second ride with a barnstormer who was landing in Savanna close to his family farm. The pilot told Siedenburg if he would get his father to mow a taxiway through the field for him then he would give him three free rides. Paul took his father, his brother George and a neighbor boy with him on his free rides.
Siedenburg entered the military in March 1943 and soloed July 14,1943 at Stamford, Texas, as an aviation cadet, receiving his wings and commission at Foster Field on Jan. 7, 1944, at Victoria, Texas. He was then sent to instructor school at Randolph Field for a month and then on to Independence, Kansas, where he instructed basic instrument training to aviation cadets for 10 months. He remained in the U S Air Force Reserve for 28 years, retiring with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In the mid-1940s, he bought a Waco UPFy biplane and barnstormed around Iowa, Illinois and Kansas at county fairs and rodeos, charging $3 a ride for one person.
From the late 1940s to mid ’70s, Siedenburg flew various types of airplanes in the Des Moines area. He owned one half of an interest in a Culver Cadet, Culver V and a Cessna 170. From 1955 to 1985 he flew company airplanes, including a Beech Travelaire, Beech Barons and Cessna 340 and 4I4A to meetings, while serving as a vice president in charge of marketing for Farm Bureau Insurance Co.
In 1985 Warren Tanner, with Elliott Flying Service, asked Siedenburg to fly charter.
He purchased a Baron and flew it from 1992 until 1999. In 1999, he and a friend, Robert Fisher, bought a Beech Bonanza and flew it until they sold the plane in 2007.
Siedenburg, who was accident free for 65 years and 7,500 hours of flying, said he took pride in his smooth landings. He flew many trips to Canada, from Toronto in the East to the Northwest territories in the West, to Mexico and Bahamas and places throughout the United States from Washington, D.C., to California.
Larry Arenholz from the Des Moines FSDO presented Siedenburg with the award. Former Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad also presented him with an award to celebrate the occasion.