Wayne Loeber’s career as a pilot has been nothing less than impressive.
He’s built his own aircraft, flown for Delta, been a flight instructor and has now been honored with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
It is one of the highest honors given to a civilian pilot.
The award, given by the Federal Aviation Administration, recognizes pilots who have accomplished 50 or more years of safe flight operations.
A member of the FAA presented Loeber, of St. George, with the award on Thursday at the Hurricane City Airport.
Family and friends, many of them pilots themselves, came together to celebrate Loeber’s milestone.
Loeber’s friend and fellow pilot, Jeff Hamilton, nominated him for the award.
“I think it’s important for Wayne to be recognized because of his life-long passion for aviation,” Hamilton said. “He’s a good representative of general aviation and his record speaks for itself.”
Loeber’s aviation career began more than 50 years ago on March 13, 1965 when he soloed in a Super Cub at the age of 17.
Less than a year later he received his private pilot certificate.
“When I was young I was always fascinated by aviation,” Loeber said. “When I became old enough and had the resources, I started training. Basically all I’ve ever done is aviation since then.”
While Loeber was studying at San Diego State University, he worked as a flight instructor for Gibbs Flying Service at Montgomery Field. He continued his education at Sonoma State University and began flying routes throughout California transporting checks.
In 1970, Loeber was hired as a co-pilot with Global Associates and began flying DC-4s and Caribous based in Kwajalein, Marshall Islands.
Two years and many flights later, he started working for the company he had his sights set on for quite some time: Western Airlines.
Loeber flew with Western for more than 30 years before transitioning to Delta, which acquired Western in 1987.
When Loeber finally decided to retire at the age of 56 he still couldn’t stay out of the sky. He built two planes, one of which he still owns, then jumped onboard with the opportunity of a contracted job overseas.
A four-month overseas job had Loeber transporting Islamic pilgrims from North Africa to Jetta, Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Hajj season. He transported 500 pilgrims from Nigeria and continued to make trips to places such as Benin, Togo and Mali.
When Loeber turned 60 he was hired as a co-pilot for NetJets where he worked for three and a half years.
Now Loeber has settled down in St. George where he continues to fly.
He was able to complete training on his neighbor’s Eclipse 500 and has been adding flight hours to his log book on this plane, which he has taken for many backcountry trips.
Loeber said he hasn’t lost any interest in flying and as long as he stays healthy he plans to continue being in planes.
“Everything about aviation is just thrilling to me,” Loeber said. “There’s just so much about it and how complex and vast it is, from airlines to small airplanes. Basically I like it all.”