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February 7, 2017

Niswonger Foundation Congratulates Scott M. Niswonger
Presented Coveted Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award

Scott Niswonger with Professor Holleman

At a formal ceremony on Tuesday, at the General Morgan Inn, in Greeneville, Scott M. Niswonger, Chairman and Founder of the Niswonger Foundation, was presented the most prestigious award the Federal Aviation Administration issues to pilots.  This award is named for Wilber and Orville Wright, American brothers and aviators who are credited with inventing, building, and flying the world's first successful airplane.  The award recognizes individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for at least 50 years, while piloting aircraft as “Master Pilots.” 

Past recipients of this award are a “who’s who” list of notables in aviation, including Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan; and legendary icon and businessman, Arnold Palmer. 

Lew Kunkle, recently retired Chief Pilot with Niswonger’s local aviation company, Sky Night LLC, was the master of ceremonies for the luncheon event.  Kunkel introduced Nick Popovich, longtime friend of Niswonger, as the initial speaker.  Popovich cofounded Sage-Popovich, an global aviation services company.  His remarks focused on the impact that Niswonger has had on his life, sharing that his example has been Popovich’s inspiration to give back to his own community. 

Charles Holleman, Professor Emeritus from Purdue University, provided comments regarding Niswonger’s lifetime of achievement.  He shared that Niswonger took his first flight lessons at the age of twelve, soloed on his sixteenth birthday, and received his private pilot license on his seventeenth birthday. Holleman was one of Niswonger’s professors and Chairman of the Aviation and Transportation Technology program at Purdue.  Holleman commented about the passion and desire for learning that Niswonger exhibited as a student.  Furthermore, he recognized him for his lifetime of philanthropic and personal contributions to Purdue University and the Purdue aviation program. It is notable that past recipients and friends of Niswonger’s, Astronants Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, are fellow graduates of Purdue University.

Holleman, also, is a past recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and was one of the individuals who nominated Niswonger for this honor.

Pam Charles was on hand from the Federal Aviation Administration to present the coveted lapel pin and plaque.  Holleman did the honors of placing the pin on Scott Niswonger’s lapel.

Niswonger’s comments reflected on the experiences that aviation has provided to him over the course of a lifetime.  In particular, he shared about the changes he has witnessed in the training of pilots, from the days of celestial navigation and low frequency ranges, to the current technology of global positioning system (gps) as the chief method of navigation. 

Niswonger stated that he was immensely honored to be recognized with this award, and humbled to consider the group of individuals he is joining as a recipient.  In particular, he recognized his former professor and friend, Charles Holleman for the important role he has played in his life, stating: “Each of us knows the importance of that teacher who set us on course and truly made a difference in our lives.”

Niswonger recognized the attendees from Purdue Aviation and Purdue University, members of the Sky Night LLC team, and many local dignitaries, friends and family who were in attendance.  A number of guests spoke of their personal appreciation for Niswonger’s contributions to Greeneville, Greene County and Tusculum College; his hometown of Van Wert, Ohio; and at Purdue University. 

Local officials commenting on the award included Greene County Mayor, David Crum; Greeneville City Mayor, W. T. Daniels; and Todd Smith, City Administrator for Greeneville.  

To be eligible for the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, nominees must have held a U.S. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot certificate, have 50 or more years of civil and military flying experience, and be a United States citizen.  

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