GREENWOOD – For more than 50 years, David Moll has been a commercial pilot. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently acknowledged this accomplishment by giving him the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
“It’s a lifetime achievement I’m very proud of,” said Moll, a commercial pilot at Duncan Aviation in Lincoln.
The award is given to licensed pilots who are federally certified and have been flying for at least 50 years. It recognizes pilots for their professionalism, skill and aviation expertise, according to the FAA’s website. Moll, of Greenwood, is one of just 5,600 American pilots who have received this prestigious award.
In 1968 Moll sat in the pilot’s seat for the first time at age 15 in Minnesota, where he grew up. He took his first solo flight just three days after his 16th birthday.
“My father was a pilot and it was easy to get started at the time,” he said.
He attended Mankato State College (now Minnesota State University, Mankato) in Mankato, Minn. and majored in business with a concentration in aviation, because the college’s flight school was a part of the school of business.
“That was very handy,” he said.
He got his pilot’s license during his first year of college. While in college he taught flying and worked at the airport to earn money. He was on the go from morning to night, a trait necessary to be a pilot.
“In order to get where you want to be in this business, you really have to push hard constantly,” he said. “You have to be dedicated to the trade.”
There was never a question what field Moll would end up in after college.
“It was something I’d been doing for several years and it just seemed like second nature,” he said.
He continued working as a flight instructor after college, until he took a job with a charter airline in Minneapolis.
It was a business flight to Lincoln to pick up an airplane at Duncan Aviation that brought Moll to Nebraska for the first time.
“That’s how I got my first ride in a Learjet,” he added.
He began working for Duncan Aviation in 1976 after earning his Learjet type rating. He flew many different aircraft during those early years at Duncan, including a Cessna 206, a Mooney, an Aztec, a Baron 55 and 58, a Bonanza, the Cessna 310, 402, 414 and 421 and the Learjet 23, 24, 25 and 35.
In 1977, he was chosen to captain a Learjet 35 that Duncan had leased to Northrup Aircraft Corporation in Saudi Arabia. He flew Northrup employees around the Middle Eastern country and made occasional trips to Greece or Switzerland.
“For a 25-year-old, that was quite an experience,” he said.
After two years, Moll left Duncan to be the chief pilot for a company in Atlanta. He married Nancy McKinney, a long-time Duncan Aviation employee who was able to continue the job she was doing in Lincoln while living in Atlanta.
Moll later worked as a contract pilot, where companies who needed an extra pilot for a trip would call him up and offer him a spot in the cockpit.
The aviation industry took a nose dive in 2008 when the economy tanked, Moll said. Duncan and many other aviation companies laid off hundreds of employees.
By then, Moll and his wife had moved to Greenwood. He worked at local retail businesses there and did aerial photography to gather data for geographic information systems (GIS).
“I did whatever it took to keep income coming in,” he said.
He was hired by the State of Nebraska’s Department of Aeronautics (now part of the Department of Transportation) and had the privilege of flying the governor.
As the economy began to rebound, aviation picked up and Duncan asked Moll to come back to work work part-time. Last year he was hired full-time by the company.
With technology advancing quickly in the aviation industry, training is constant. This week Moll is in Wichita learning to fly a new type of corporate jet.
“You never stop learning in this business,” he said.
He has flown a number of different types of civilian aircraft in his career and in his spare time.
“I’ve flown some of the best airplanes in the world,” he said.
As a way to improve his flying skills, Moll took up aerobatic flying in his spare time.
“It makes you a far better pilot if you get into aerobatics and you really learn how airplanes work,” he said.
Moll said his wife has been “phenomenally supportive” of his career during their married life. Having worked in the industry herself for over four decades, she understands the sacrifices that a pilot must make, including time away from family.
“She knows the business extremely well and knows what it takes,” he said.
Moll has logged nearly 12,000 hours of flight time in the 51 years he has been flying, and he has no plans to stop anytime soon, he said.
“Not as long as I enjoy it,” he added.