A local pilot, who currently serves as director of operations for the Georgia Wing of the Civil Air Patrol based in Gainesville, was recently recognized for flying accident free through his 54-year career.
Lt. Col. Richard Ivy received the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot from the federal Aviation Administration. The honor is only given to those who have "demonstrated professionalism, skill, sound decision making and aviation expertise by conducting safe flight operations for 50 or more years."
Col. Richard Greenwood, commander of the Georgia Wing, said Ivy stands as the model all pilots should try to achieve.
"His hard work, his willingness to serve others and his dedication to his country are in the highest traditions of volunteerism," he said.
For 78-year-old Ivy, it's all in a day's work.
"It's an honor, and to do something you love, that's special," he said.
Ivy's aviation career began shortly after joining the U.S. Navy in 1959, when he trained to fly both single and multi-engine aircraft as well as helicopters.
After flight school, he flew anti-submarine helicopters while serving stints in the Atlantic, Pacific and Vietnam. He also trained pilots, served as a safety officer and was involved in space program missions, including the recovery of Alan Shephard and the Freedom 7 Space capsule in May 1961.
"And then I was the helicopter pilot that dropped the crew that puts the flotation ring around Apollo 4 in the Pacific," he said. "Those are two pretty significant events in my career."
Ivy retired after 20 years in the Navy, and served as reservist before joining the Civil Air Patrol, the civilian arm of the U.S. Air Force, nearly six years ago.
The group serves through a variety of methods, from conducting searches and rescue to assisting local emergency management agencies. Many of the volunteers are current or retired professional pilots, though it is not a requirement.
"If you enjoy flying and you want to give back something to the county, it's a way of doing it," Ivy said.
Kevin Tanner, a second lieutenant with the Civil Air Patrol, has flown along with Ivy as a mission scanner on several occasions.
"Having flown with many pilots over the years, I can say he is one of the best," he said. "The Civil Air Patrol 447 in the north Georgia area is fortunate to have a pilot of his caliber serving."