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Feet on the ground, head in the clouds

Feet on the ground, head in the clouds
Gary E. Stamper of the San Antonio FAA Flight Standards District Office (left) presents the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award to John Larrison of La Vernia. This honors Larrison’s more than 50 years as a pilot.

Pilot John Larrison of La Vernia is the recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

This honor is presented to pilots who have completed at least 50 years of flying. After checking the records of each candidate to verify their accuracy and confirming no violations, the applications are forwarded to the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. Upon approval, the pilot is presented with a commemorative plaque and his or her name is placed on the roll of honor. A notable recipient of this award is Chuck Yeager.

Gary E. Stamper, F AASTeam program manager with the San Antonio Flight Standards District Office, presented the recognition to Larrison during the May meeting of the San Antonio-General Aviation Pilots Association aircraft safety meeting.

“It is a pleasure for us to be able to recognize deserving pilots and share at least a portion of their story with the public,” Stamper said. “I am always amazed at the diversity of backgrounds and flying history. John Larrison, for example, has flown a number of very interesting military airplanes and has served his country in combat. The airplane he flies now is one that he built. He operates it safely and has lent his expertise to others that are building their own. His continued participation in aviation shows a genuine concern for safe flying and appreciation for the adventure that all started with the Wright Brothers in 1903.”

Flight history

Larrison’s initial solo was in spring 1957 at Purdue University Airport in Indiana, in a Cessna 172. He received ROTC flight training in preparation for U.S. Air Force pilot training and earned his private pilot license during this time.

After earning his Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering, Larrison worked as a flight test engineer at Boeing Seattle in Washington during B-52 flight testing. The majority of his flights there were as a tail gunner, testing the gun’s radar and computer.

He entered Air Force pilot training in 1958, training in T-34 and T-28 trainers. In basic training in Big Spring, Texas, he flew the T-33 jet trainer. Following completion of basic, he earned his Air Force wings and was assigned as an instructor pilot, flying T-33s, as well as T-37 and T-28 trainers, and the twin jet T-37.

In 1964, Larrison was reassigned to the A-1E Skyraider and flew 225 combat missions in Vietnam, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and eight Air Medals.

Back stateside, he flew the F-102 and F-101B in the Air Defense Command, participated in an exchange program with the Canadian Armed Forces, and flew functional test flights as an FCF pilot. This last experience led to an assignment with an F-4 Wing in Korea.

He retired after 22 years in the Air Force to work as a logistics manager with several aerospace companies, before retiring to La Vernia. He now owns and flies an RV-8 “experimental, home-built” aircraft out of Heritage Airpark in New Berlin. He currently serves as president of the board of the S.S. Water Supply Corp. in La Vernia.

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