Washington, DC, October 19, 2012 – The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today marked the passing of an industry legend, 95-year-old Albert Lee Ueltschi, founder and chairman emeritus of FlightSafety International, Inc.
“Safety is the foundation upon which business aviation is built, and in a lot of ways, Al Ueltschi is the person who laid the cornerstone,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “Ueltschi’s impact on the industry – and the people in it – has been profound. He always said that the best safety device in any aircraft was a well-trained pilot, and he made sure our community had a lot of well-trained pilots.”
Al Ueltschi was a widely respected aviator who soloed at the age of 16, later flew with Charles Lindbergh and was the personal pilot of Juan Trippe, the iconic chief executive of Pan American World Airways, who traveled in a converted military aircraft that was among the earliest postwar business airplanes.
While flying for Trippe, Ueltschi noted that the pilots of business aircraft had no access to the benefits of the formal training that he had experienced as an airline aviator. Consequently, he founded FlightSafety International at New York's LaGuardia Airport in 1951 to provide instruction to this new breed of pilot. Ueltschi remained an active Pan Am pilot until 1958, when the company went public. FlightSafety International has since diversified, today providing aviation training worldwide for commercial, government and military operators.
While Ueltschi left an indelible mark on business aviation, perhaps his most important contributions were as a humanitarian. Ueltschi was a driving force behind Project Orbis, an international nonprofit aircraft-based teaching eye hospital that since the 1980s has traveled to the world’s less-developed areas to teach sight-saving techniques and surgical procedures. For many years, Ueltschi served as chairman of Orbis International and in mid 2010, he was elected chairman emeritus of the organization. During the same year, he co-founded HelpMeSee with his son, Jim, for the purpose of addressing the cataract tragedy in the developing world, where about 19 million cataract blind reside, representing almost 50 percent of all treatable blindness.
For all these efforts and more, Ueltschi has been honored by NBAA several times. He was the recipient of the 1991 NBAA Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation. In 2001, he received the NBAA American Spirit Award. In 2006, the Association established the annual Al Ueltschi Award for Humanitarian Leadership in recognition of the spirit of service demonstrated by humanitarian leaders within the business aviation community. This year, that award is being presented to FedEx and its founder, Frederick W. Smith, in recognition of the company’s more than 30 years as the leading aviation sponsor of Orbis.
Ueltschi received numerous other awards during his career, including the 1991 FAA Award for Extraordinary Service, the 1994 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy and the 2001 National Aeronautic Association Elder Statesman Award. In 2001, Ueltschi was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. The Canadian Business Aircraft Association presented its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Ueltschi in June 2006.
Ueltschi is survived by four children, 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.