Robert Haynes, current Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) here at LIFT Academy, was recently nominated and awarded The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, the most prestigious award presented to pilots by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Named after the Wright brothers, who achieved the first controlled, sustainable flight, this highly distinguished award seeks to recognize individuals who have demonstrated “50 years of exemplary aviation flight experience, distinguished professionalism, and steadfast commitment to aviation safety.”
Robert, who now spends his time with LIFT, empowering the next generation of pilots on their pathway to Republic Airways, acquired a love for flying at just 15 years old, soloing for the first time on his 16th birthday. Since then, Robert has flown over 60 various aircraft throughout his career and has experience ranging from air traffic control, part 91/135 operations to flight instructing, obtaining senior check airman and mission pilot qualifications with Civil Air Patrol.
While Robert’s accolades and experience make him a deserving recipient of the award, he’s most honored to share the prestigious recognition with his father, John Haynes, who received The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2018 at 95 years old. “I consider it a tribute to my dad who taught me how to fly,” Robert remarked, sharing that his father is “the man he most reveres.” Understandably so, as John has quite the impressive career trajectory, since enlisting in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor. While in the Navy, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander.
Following his service, John worked as an Air Traffic Controller at the FAA for nine years in Augusta, GA. Then he transferred to Beirut, Lebanon, working in Flight Inspection where he checked Navigational Aids (NAVAIDs) all throughout the Middle East and Africa. After returning to Washington headquarters, John became Chief of Aircraft Management, managing a C123, two DC3’s, Convair 580 and Sabreliner. In 1977, he transferred to Japan, where he managed the FAA’s Southeast Asia flight operations, serving Japan, China, Philippines, Korea and more. In 1979, John retired from the FAA and returned to Alaska. Licensed as an Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic, he owned nine aircraft and rebuilt three from the ground up in his retirement. When asked what lessons his father passed down, Robert shared that his father’s fundamental rule was this: “Be safe, be smooooth.” Adding, “My brother and I fly by those principles today.”
John, now 99, was able to witness Robert’s acceptance last month. Also present, Devin McAllister, Advanced Flight Instructor at LIFT Academy, noted, “the smile across Robert’s face was brilliant”. When asked what the award meant to him, Robert shared, “I am most humbled by the award and am very thankful for the fact my aviation journey that began in 1971 has led me to teaching the next generation of pilots at LIFT Academy. I work with some exceptionally talented people and feel very privileged to be part of this team. LIFT has been amazing.”
With such prestigious recognition under his belt, you may ask what’s on the horizon for Robert. In his words, “I am most excited to see our students progress from Certificated Flight Instructor to being a First Officer at Republic Airways.” To him, his eclectic background in aviation and air traffic control provides students with an impactful and insightful experience.
As for John? He’ll be turning 100 years old this May- but that’s not slowing him down. Check out this video of John spending his 99th birthday up in the air! In Robert’s words, “It’ll be the best three minutes of your week!”