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FAA awards Judge Tommy Dobson the Wright Brother’s Master Pilot Award


EVERGREEN, Ala. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded, the Honorable Judge Tommy R. Dobson (retired), a native of Sylacauga and Sylacauga Airport Board Chairman, with the Wright Brother’s Master Pilot Award Friday in Evergreen at the South East Regional Fly-In (SERFI).  Dobson was nominated by fellow pilots that know him well.  They know how much he has contributed to Sylacauga’s very own Merkel Field (KSCD) and other surrounding airports to include Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport thereby supporting the growth of Sylacauga City for his entire flying career.  He led the Governor’s task force to bring an International Airport to Alabama.

“Tommy Dobson is now a member of an elite group of only 5,663 Wright Brother’s Master Pilots ever named in the United States,” says Memory Finn of Sylacauga Airport. William Hattaway, FAA, presented Dobson with a distinctive certificate and lapel pin to commemorate this achievement. His wife, Cheryl Dobson, and daughter, Lisa Dobson also received pins for supporting his flying all of these years. His family and friends traveled to celebrate this event with him. Judge Dobson thanked his family, friends, pilots, the glider club, and supporters in the Sylacauga Community for the opportunities to enjoy flying with each and every one of them.

Dobson mastered 50 years of active flying in 2015.  He soloed in March of 1964 in a Cessna 150 Heavy.  He still flies a C-150 today he calls “tie-dye” for its original paint job.  He has obtained pilot certificates and ratings which include; Commercial, Multi Engine, Instrument Landing, Flight and Ground ratings and he is a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).  Dobson holds current certificates and continues a flying career with no flight violations or aviation accidents.   He mastered Cessna’s, Mooney’s, Piper’s, Beechcraft’s, a tail wheel Luscombe as a private pilot and flew a Cessna 340 for Kimberly Clark in the 1980s as a Commercial Pilot to aid in relief to pilots at that time.

Tommy recognizes and appreciates the support given to him throughout his aviation career early on from his parents, Ray and Nell Dobson of Sylacauga,  continuously by his wife, Cheryl Dobson, a retired teacher of Sylacauga City Schools,  and his daughter and “co-pilot”, Lisa Dobson, raised in Sylacauga and now a Vice President of an engineering firm in Huntsville.  “Every Certified Flight Instructor’s dream is to teach their child to fly, and I did that!” said Dobson.

Lisa Dobson said, “Dad is the CFI who taught me to fly and encouraged my aviation interests along with his flight instructor, Mr. ‘Nat’ Key.  I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award. I am proud of my father, my friend, my colleague, my CFI, and this man that loves his hometown, Sylacauga’s airport, and any aviators or those looking to become aviators. He goes above and beyond to promote safe and enjoyable flying for all.”

The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award is the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots certified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61. This award is named after the Wright Brothers, the first US pilots, to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as “Master Pilots.”  (source  Mark Griffin, a private pilot from Birmingham said, “I have known him to always operate aircraft in a safe and professional manner, be of good moral character, and an outstanding individual who is respected in the aviation community.”

Judge Dobson is a long-term resident of the City of Sylacauga.  He understands the economic importance of the airport to the Sylacauga and Talladega County community. He, along with the Sylacauga Airport Board Members, supports Sylacauga Municipal Airport and other airports they each visit along with fly-ins to continue learning all aspects of aviation while meeting pilots from all over the United States. “Tommy is always willing to support the airport as he demonstrates by fueling aircraft, a customer service skill he no-doubt learned from his parents, Ray and Nell Dobson of Sylacauga. Tommy receives many calls from the airport, and he always serves any customer or fellow aviator whether they live in Sylacauga or they are just passing through,” said Cheryl Dobson.

A few of the Sylacauga Airport Board’s initiatives over the years resulted in expansion for KSCD to include the terminal building, hangers, an expanded runway and apron large enough to accommodate jets, and Air Methods, Air Medical Transport being based in Sylacauga resulting in a positive economic impact for the beautiful City of Sylacauga.

“We have numerous pilots and guests that fly into Sylacauga’s local airport to fuel aircraft, enjoy Farmlinks and Pursell Farms, local golf courses, travel to Auburn and Alabama football games and Alabama’s beaches, and much more.   This includes renting cars, buying gas, shopping and eating at local shops and restaurants.” said his daughter Lisa who is also a private pilot.

Dobson is often asked what it is like to be a pilot. He offers a quote by Leonardo da Vinci in response, “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

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