By John McVey, The Journal
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Thomas Guy Reynolds Jr. eased back on the stick of his Evektor SportStar light sport aircraft and it lifted effortlessly off the runway at the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport (MRB).
He circled the field three times, making a couple of low passes over the runway for pictures, and softly set his plane down.
That would not be extraordinary, but Reynolds flew Dec. 1 on his 100th birthday.
He is the oldest known licensed pilot in West Virginia and definitely the senior pilot in this region.
“The flight was fine,” Reynolds said afterward. “The air was nice and smooth.”
He takes a co-pilot with him in his two-seater plane, usually Bart Rogers, but flying on his birthday has become a tradition as well as celebrating the day with fellow pilots at the airport, who fly in to enjoy lunch, cake and stories.
“I hope to fly on my 101st birthday,” he said.
Rogers was grateful for the weather Friday, which was perfect for flying — little wind and clear skies.
“It is a thrill to fly with someone who’s 100 years old,” Rogers said. “He’s as sharp as a tack.”
And Rogers does not touch the controls. Reynolds is the pilot.
Needless to say, Reynolds’ centennial birthday was very special, drawing a quite a crowd of family, friends and admirers.
“I am in awe of him, totally in awe,” said Ann Reynolds Carden, who traveled from New York to see her father fly. “He doesn’t have any fear, so I’m not afraid when he flies, but I don’t like to fly.”
Reynolds was born in Martinsburg Nov. 30, 1912, the son of the late Thomas Guy Reynolds Sr. and Lora Lenora Stotler Reynolds. He graduated from Shepherd College in 1933 with a degree in education. He taught school in Berkeley County for 18 years; ran his own television and radio repair business; served as an electro-mechanical designer for Thieblot Aircraft Co., which was located at the airport; and worked as an engineer at Corning Glass Works in Berkeley County.
Reynolds took his first flight from Shepherd Field, now the Eastern Regional Airport, in 1929 in a Ford Trimotor airplane.
In 1943, he organized the Martinsburg Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, serving as its first commander. The unit’s insignia bears his initials. After World War II, Reynolds searved as chairman of the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission for two terms.
He was recognized in 2004 as the Berkeley County Citizen of the Year for his lifetime of volunteer service to the community.
On his 93rd birthday, he made a parachute jump — a lifelong ambition — with the Chambersburg, Pa., Parachute Club. He was, and as far he knows, remains the oldest person to parachute in Pennsylvania.
“I’m just blessed, that’s all I can say,” Reynolds said about his aptitude for flying. “I’m lucky I can fly. I feel comfortable in the air, relaxed and I enjoy it.”
Asked for his advice to young people, he said, “If you want to do something, do it. You don’t know when you might not be able to do it.”
Reprinted with permission from The Journal