VAN WERT – In his over 50 years of flying, Bruce Flinn has nearly seen the world. These days, he uses all that he has learned to teach others how to fly at the Van Wert County Airport.
Flinn, a Kenton native and a current Middle Point resident, has always been drawn to aviation.
“In the seventh grade, the teachers said, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” said Flinn. “So I said, “I either want to be an engineer in the Marines or a pilot in the Navy.” As it turned out I worked for both the Marines and the Navy. I am an engineer, and I am a pilot.”
While in the Marines, Flinn was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. He was moved around several times during the course of the Vietnam war but eventually found his way back to Japan where he stayed after his military duty was over. In order to make his stay possible, Flinn worked for the Navy and got a visa. He got out of the military in 1969 where he then moved to Tokyo, Japan, and taught languages.
Soon after, Japan Airlines offered him a position as a flight instructor. He would teach students, he said, but the problem was, they would then go off and make more money than he did.
“My students were going off and making big bucks, and I was teaching them how to make more money,” laughed Flinn. “I checked into it and found out I was still eligible for VA benefits.”
Flinn searched the world to find the best place to fly, in a short period of time he obtained various licenses. Today, some of the licenses he holds include a pilots license, flight instructor, ground instructor, dispatcher, flight engineer, mechanic, air traffic control, navigator, and radio.
“I flew a lot,” said Flinn. “In less than two years I had 3,000 hours.”
“My first job was flying DC-6’s,” added Flinn. “They are four engine planes that American and United used to fly. They were flying them in the Caribbean for a company called British West India, so I flew DC-6’s for a couple of years, got accustomed to flying over the water, and flying big airplanes outside of Miami.”
Flinn then got hired into National Airlines which was later taken over by Pan Am Airways. Flinn has flown with many different airlines in his over 50 years in aviation. Because of his flight experiences, he has lived in places across the world like Argentina and Berlin, Germany.
To date, Flinn has over 15,800 hours of flight time. He’s been nearly across the world, with the exception of Australia which he has plans to visit in a couple of months.
Through his travels, Flinn learned many languages including Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Ancient Greek.
“I’ve found out that a lot of these languages are related to each other,” said Flinn. “You’ve got the Germanic’s, the Romantics, the Slavic’s, and Celt, which is not used much at all. I tried to pick out some of each.”
“I said, ‘I’m still hungry to study, what else can I study?” Flinn added. “That’s when I started on the languages.”
Eager to continue learning, Flinn eventually earned his Ph.D. from Warren National University in Safety Engineering.
Flinn married a woman from Middle Point, which drew him to the area. Eventually, he found himself at Van Wert Airport. With his extensive and impressive aviation background, he was quickly wanted for his skills and asked to teach.
“They found out about me here (the Airport) and said ‘Well, can you teach this person, can you teach this one?’” said Flinn. “I always said yes, and now I’ve said yes to 15-20 people.”
“It’s rewarding when the student goes out and is able to learn something,” said Flinn of his teachings.
While Flinn has seen much of the world, he’s still hungry to see more. He said he is grateful that aviation has allowed him to visit so many places thus far.
“It was nice when I was on the 747 because it’s a big airplane; I like that airplane, and I was going someplace,” said Flinn. “It was nice because I got to know downtown London, downtown Rome, Frankfurt, Moscow. That was the nice thing, going to these foreign places regularly enough that you actually get to know the places.”
While Flinn enjoys instructing, he hopes to eventually find time to work on a boat he has been building and to travel to more countries.