Skip to content

Heroes in Flight: Arnold Palmer

Arnold PalmerArnold Palmer

On September 25, 2016, the world lost the legendary Arnold Palmer, who died at the age of 87.  Nicknamed The King, Palmer is revered as one of the best professional golfers in history.  But did you know that Arnold Palmer was also an avid pilot?

A fear of flying

Palmer had a curious reason for taking up flying – to get over his fear of it!  In his youth, he liked to spend time at a small airport at the Latrobe Country Club, about a mile from where he lived.  One day, he had the opportunity to take a ride in a Piper Cub with an army pilot.  Unfortunately for Palmer, the pilot did a few things he probably shouldn’t have for kicks, shaking Palmer up and leaving him pretty scared!

Most people would have left it at that, but not Arnold Palmer.  This experience gave him the drive to take up flying lessons, which he did in the late 1950s, learning in a single-engine Cessna 172.  After he won the Master’s in ’58, he leased a Cessna 175 and, with a co-pilot, persevered to improve his flying skills.

A solo flyer

It wasn’t long before Palmer achieved his ‘instrument and multi-engine ratings’, and he celebrated by taking his first solo flight over the majestic Allegheny Mountains!  In 1961, he bought his first airplane – an Aero Commander 500.  Opting for wings over wheels, Palmer could now fly from competition to competition on his tours.

As technology improved, so did Arnold Palmer’s desire to fly bigger and better aircraft.  In 1966 he got his first corporate jet – a Rockwell Jet Commander.  The greatest convenience of flying at 500 mph was that he could now sleep in his own bed each night!

Arnold Palmer Regional Airport

Palmer’s love of aviation led him to serve on the Airport Authority board.  In this role, he used his influence to help expand and modernize the airport at Latrobe where he spent so many days as a boy.  Modern additions included a control tower and a 7,000-foot runway.  It was this contribution that led to the re-name of what was once the Latrobe Airport to Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, coinciding this honor with Palmer’s 70th birthday in 1999.

A legacy on the green and in the skies

In a flying career that spanned over 55 years, Arnold Palmer logged over 18,000 hours of flying.  In that time, he had the chance to land a military jet on the aircraft carrier Eisenhower, fly alongside the Blue Angels, and test-fly a Boeing-747 and a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10.  He even became a world record holder in 1976, when he circumnavigated the globe in under 58 hours.

Arnold Palmer counted learning to fly as his third greatest achievement (after his golf career and meeting his wife!).  He even suggested that he couldn’t have achieved all he did had he not had his own airplanes.

How could flying change your life?  Find out now by applying to fly with us at CTI Professional Flight Training.

Leave a Comment