The NBAA memorial is one of many well-written tributes to one of the true aviation heroes. He flew with Lindbergh and was a pilot for Pan Am’s Juan Trippe. Ueltschi recognized that corporate pilots needed additional training and created FlightSafety International. The company is now owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and employs more than 4,200 people at 40 facilities around the world. FlightSafety is one of the world’s largest providers of flight and maintenance training.
For most people, that would have been a full and successful career, but Al had another great idea about aviation. He founded an incredibly effective organization called Project Orbis. That nonprofit entity uses an aircraft as an eye hospital, bringing advanced sight-saving techniques and surgical procedures to the world’s less-developed areas. The airplane was not just a hospital, but also a teaching platform; local doctors joined Orbis’ surgeons on board and learned state-of-the-art procedures. Again, that awesome contribution was not enough.
In 2010, he and his son Jim founded HelpMeSee, another not-for-profit organization. Its goal is to restore sight to millions of cataract-blinded people. HelpMeSee seeks – a worldwide basis – to train thousands of eye-care practitioners in the latest low-cost vision-restoration techniques. The foundation also donates equipment, clinics and funds for the procedures.
Recently, Ueltschi announced he had signed the Giving Pledge, committing to donate half his personal wealth to philanthropy. “I have never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer,” he wrote in a letter announcing his joining the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in the charitable cause. “You can’t take it with you.”
Mr. Ueltschi must have added a room to his home to display all of the awards which he earned – 1991 FAA Award for Extraordinary Service, the 1994 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, the 2001 National Aeronautic Association Elder Statesman Award, 2001 enshrinement in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the 1991 NBAA Award for Meritorious Service to Aviation and the 2001 NBAA American Spirit Award.
This is a man who defined excellence in so many dimensions. He will be greatly missed not just by aviation professionals, but also all whom he touched through Orbis.Share this article: