Springfield Pilot Honored With ‘Most Prestigious’ Award
January 20, 2020
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  • A local pilot with over 20,000 hours of flying experience received “the most prestigious” flying award from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

    James Hupman, a Springfield resident for over 40 years, received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award – given to pilots who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years.

    “It means a lot to me, it’s not anything I had as an end goal when I started. In fact, they didn’t even have the program then,” Hupman said. “It’s a huge milestone in my career.”

    Hupman’s interest in flying sparked when a model airplane landed on his house when he was two years old.

    “They were having some sort of a model airplane competition and with the airplanes they put notes on them,” Hupman said. “It was one of my prized possessions.”

    His interest continued, but not until the age of seven or eight did he know flying would be his career.

    Hupman explained that he sat with the pilots during a trip to a Cleveland Brown’s football game and enjoyed every second of it.

    After completing training in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, his first solo flight was on Sept. 13, 1968 at 20 years old.

    For 30 years, Hupman owned and operated a commercial charter business, Sunbird Air Services, Inc. Now he does corporate flying and is a designated pilot examiner for the Sinclair program at Wright Brothers Airport.

    “I enjoy all of it. I thoroughly enjoy working with the students doing their check rides,” Hupman said. “It keeps me grounded and gives me an opportunity to watch them grow professionally.”

    He was nominated for “50 plus years of consecutive good service in lots of areas, his aviation service has impacted lots of people in the local area, and we felt he was deserving of the award – very much so,” Jim Frederick, a Champaign County Pilots Association club member said.

    “It has been a wonderful career – one in which I have met so many wonderful people,” Hupman said. “A lot of those friendships still exist to this day.”