The business aviation community last week said goodbye to two renowned members, Monte Mitchell, the long-time former president of the Aircraft Electronics Association, and FlightSafety International founder and business aviation training pioneer Al Ueltschi.
Ueltschi, a farm boy who became an industry giant through his founding and long-time leadership of FlightSafety International, died Oct. 18 at the age of 95.
His interest in business aviation training began after he was selected to serve as the pilot for Pan Am’s famed founder Juan Trippe. He held a dual piloting role with the airline and became aware that other corporate pilots did not receive the high level of recurrent training that was provided to air carriers. In 1951, he set up an office on the second floor of the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, directly across from his Pan Am office, and began Flight Safety Inc., which later became FlightSafety International.
Not only did he grow the world’s largest and most extensive business aviation training organization, but he devoted a substantial portion of his life to philanthropy, founding
Orbis International, a flying eye teaching hospital, originally housed in a DC-8, and later founded HelpMeSee.
In 1996 he agreed to sell the business to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.
“No one in aviation did more to save lives than Al through his dedication to pilot training,” Buffett says. “Pilot and passenger safety was always his first concern. The great business and the personal wealth he created was in effect a byproduct of that concern. Al was a great friend, a great philanthropist and a great human being.”
Former Cessna Chairman Russ Meyer echoes those sentiments saying, “One of the great privileges of my life was getting to know Al Ueltschi 52 years ago. There are dozens of people who can’t spell Ueltschi, but thanks to Orbis, they know he gave them eyesight.”
Mitchell, the former president of the Aircraft Electronics Association and 40-year general aviation industry executive, died Oct. 16 in Lee’s Summit, Mo., following a brief illness. He was 83. Mitchell first served as executive director and then president of AEA from 1977 to 1996.
His career began in 1956 when he joined transponder producer Wilcox Electric, where he remained until the mid-1970s. He then became vice president of marketing for radar altimeter maker Bonzer before joining AEA.
General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce says Mitchell “was a true pioneer in advancing and revitalizing the general aviation industry.”