As 2020 neared its end, a former Olin resident and member of the Olin Class of 1963, Lynn Postel, received his Wright Brothers Master Pilot award.
The award, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, is “the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots.” To be eligible, pilots must hold a certification through either the FAA or Civil Aviation Authority, have 50 or more years of civil and military flying experience and be a U.S. citizen.
“I was almost overwhelmed by it,” Postel said. “It was such an honor for me to have that award.”
Postel’s aviation career started when he was in the Navy, where he served for 20 years, but his interest in aviation started much earlier than that. When he was just five or six years old, Postel remembers the old Anamosa airport that was just east of Highway 64 where his parents would drop him off as they went to the doctor. The airport was small, with a grass runway, hanger and a windsock, but that didn’t matter.
“I would…sit up there at the fence and watch, just hoping somebody was going to fly. And every once in a while, somebody would,” he said.
That interest, once sparked, has never gone away. As a junior in high school, Postel recalled he had a friend in Stanwood who was given a discover flight as a gift and took him along to Cedar Rapids to fly with him.
“That really lit me off,” Postel said.
While in the Navy, Postel flew helicopters as a rescue aircrewman. During his service, which spanned 20 years, his wife, Karen, saved up money for him to train for his private pilot certification, something she knew was a big dream of his, even after his time in the service was done.
From there, he went on to get his commercial license, learned how to fly sea planes and earned his commercial, private and teaching licenses for helicopters while employed at Boeing. Even after retirement, he got rated for gliders private, commercial and flight instructor.
“It’s kind of a natural progression in aviation,” Postel said of his multiple certifications.
Early on, Postel knew his passion lay on the path of teaching others how to fly, rather than flying for commercial purposes.
“I had no desire to fly for the airlines,” he said. “I love teaching, and I liked teaching people to fly…and I picked up readings as I went and as we could afford to.”
Though he’s kept up on his readings, Postel has decided to leave the teaching to his younger compatriots. However, it was his final student that’s given Postel the greatest joy as a retiree: his son.
“It was absolutely awesome,” Postel said of the two-year process. “I had determined that once he got his license, that was going to be my last flight student.”
While Postel lives in Florida, his son resides in Roanoke, Va., and they would knock out his various requirements over the holidays and other visits throughout the year. A motorcycle accident for the elder Postel extended the process and almost put his written portion of the exam past its two-year expiration date, but his son earned his license July of 2020.