What is the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award?

In 2004, Dick Waite was the 38th recipient of the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. At last count, 1,772 pilots around the country had earned the award. The award, created by the FAA in August 2003, recognizes pilots who have maintained safe flight operations for 50 or more years.

Similar pilot awards (such as the Golden Eagle Award) have been presented by various FAA Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO). These awards were issued to recognize local pilots who exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years as active pilots. The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award consolidated these local awards into one national program.

Those who are designated Master Pilots receive an FAA award certificate and lapel pin. A smaller version of the pin is awarded to the spouse, if appropriate. In addition, the recipient’s name is added to a “Role of Honor” at FAASafety.gov.

To be eligible for the Wright Brothers MPA, candidates must:

  1. Have 50 years of U.S. piloting experience. The effective start date for the award is the date of the applicant’s first solo flight or military equivalent. A current flight review or medical certificate is not required at the time of nomination.
  2. Have held a U.S. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or FAA pilot certificate with 50 or more years of civil flying experience, or 50 or more years of civil and military flying experience, of which up to 20 years may be U.S. military experience.
  3. Have been a U.S. citizen, or permanent resident, during the 50 years; however, consideration for exceptions may be given on a case-by-case basis.

Revocation of any airman certificate will disqualify a nominee for the award. Prior enforcement actions (excluding revocation) are not necessarily disqualifying, but will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Had an accident or incident? You may still qualify as the FAA says “prior accident history will be reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis.”

The award may be presented to a nominee up to two years posthumously if the nominee has acquired 50 years of U.S. piloting experience prior to passing away, FAA officials add.

To be eligible for the award, the applicant, or anyone on behalf of the applicant, must submit the following information to their local FSDO or FAA Safety Team program manager:

  • Three letters of recommendation from holders of FAA pilot certificates who can attest to the applicant’s 50 years or more of U.S. piloting experience.
  • Photocopies or proper documentation describing the kind of certificate held by the applicant, including, if available, the original issue date of the certificate.
  • A detailed description, resume, or summary of the applicant’s flying history.
  • A completed Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award Application Form, which can be found at FAASafety.gov.

Once the application is received, the FAASTeam program manager will contact the appropriate FSDO manager to inquire about the applicant’s eligibility. The regional FAASTeam manager will be the final authority for approval. Additional information, or an interview by the program manager, may be necessary to verify a nominee’s qualifications.

When possible, the award is presented at an FAA or industry event.


  1. Dan Colburn says

    I soloed in January, 1943. My instructor was Max Conrad at Winona,MN (on skis) I’ve been gainfully employed as a pilot for 68 years. Airline and retired as an engineering test pilot at Douglas Aircraft Co.
    25,390 NO Bull hours. ATP119104 DC2,DC3,DC4,DC8,DC9,DC10, CV240/340/440, L-18.
    single/multi Land and sea. CFI since 1946.
    Do I qualify?
    Daniel W. Colburn Capt,USN Retired

  2. says

    I received the Master Pilot Award on 11/16/2006 to commemorate my solo flight in a Texan AT-6 at Randolph Air Force Base. After sixty years of flying I am now a UFO member flying my 1967 Piper Arrow 180 out of 2WA1. I appreciate the award.

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