On Oct. 21, 1962, Thomas Allen Burke, then 19, successfully completed his first solo flight in a Piper Colt out of the Raleigh Municipal Airport in North Carolina. Now a resident of Greenville, S.C., Burke has safety piloted a number of different makes and models of aircraft.
Burke served many years as Chief Flight Instructor at Bob Jones University, participated in frequent humanitarian relief flights throughout the Caribbean and South America with Missionary Flights International and, since 199,0 has served as a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) for the FAA.
According to the FAA’s website, the award is an avenue for the FAA to recognize the efforts of pilots who have followed and continue to follow the precaution and awareness of safe flight operations. Most of all, the FAA states that it recognizes pilots who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for 50 or more consecutive years of piloting aircraft. The award’s online database indicates that fewer than 2,600 pilots nationally have received this award and of those and only 18 reflect a current South Carolina address. Burke is the first Carolinian awardee listed from the city of Greenville.
“Tom consistently takes the time to help young and old pilots alike by encouraging them and making flying meaningful, like using (his) knowledge and sound judgment that will result in a safe flight. He has been an inspiration and good example to us all,” stated fellow pilot Morgan Parris, one of several local airmen who nominated Burke for this award. “I believe one of his favorite aircraft he has flown is the DC-3, on which he was a captain for many years.”