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Sky-High Lifetime Brings Prestigious Award To Local Pilot



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When he talks about any aspect of flying, Sal Manganaro's face lights up. There is more than a trace of the 6-year-old boy who gazed up in the sky at planes going overhead and dreamed of being a pilot.

That was more than 70 years ago. On February 23, Mr Manganaro was honored with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award during a ceremony at the Flight Instructors Open Forum in Moonachie, N.J. Issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the prestigious award celebrates pilots with 50 years or more of safe flight The award makes Mr Manganaro one of only 3,500 of approximately 600,000 active pilots so honored by the FAA since 2003.

"It's like the Hall of Fame for pilots," said Mr Manganaro, who added that he is proud to have his name go up along the others on this lifetime FAA Honor Roll.

Until last year, the longtime pilot and flight instructor was not even aware of the Master Pilot Award. Last summer, his colleagues nominated him, and as part of the process, he needed three letters of recommendation.

"I got 14," he said, far more than were needed by the national FAA headquarters in Oklahoma City, Okla., to process the application. "Then they investigated my record, back to the time I was a student pilot," he said.

He received notification in August 2015 that he had been selected, but it was not until this past month that the FAA was able to schedule the ceremony. A PowerPoint presentation of Mr Manganaro's career, for which he thanks FAA employee Robert Thorson, who was also vital to preparing the paperwork for the application, was followed by the presentation of the certificate and pin by George Bennett III, the Eastern Region Flight Standards District Office manager.

"It's just terrific," said Mr Manganaro. "I feel like I'm a star."

His earliest fascination with planes did not wane, he said. By the time he was a preteen living in Brooklyn, he was bicycling over and hanging out at the Brooklyn Skyport, a float plane port. "Finally," he said, "a pilot offered me a ride. That was 1947. As soon as I saw the ground break away I was delighted. The pilot showed me a little bit about how to fly, and that was the real beginning for me." That very first dual flight lesson took place in an 85HP Piper Cub float plane.

At age 16, he received his student pilot license, and from there, "It was the normal progression up the ladder through flight schools for my primary, intermediate, and advanced certificates," said Mr Manganaro. He currently holds pilot privileges for private pilot, commercial pilot, flight instructor airplanes single and multi-engine, and instrument rating, as well as the "PhD" - airline transport license privileges with seven endorsement-type ratings in high performance multiengine jet aircraft, airplanes single and multiengine land, and the FAA pilot examiner license.

He has held his instructor certification since he was 19 years old. He is recertified and receives training every year, and is medically certified every six months, holding a first class medical license.

From 1957 to 1965, he served in the US Navy, flying the F8 Crusader, the Navy's first supersonic jet. He spent eight months as a co-pilot with Capitol Airlines flying the DC8 four-engine jet transport. After being discharged, he began work at the French company Dessault Falcon Jet, flying the first Falcon Business Jet in America.

"I'm still with them as a contract service employee," said Mr Manganaro, flying for corporations and private individuals. He is also the owner of Salem Enterprises International, training and testing pilots, and doing contract pilot work worldwide.

In the more than 60 years he has been in the airline industry, he has never had an accident or violation. That is not to say that there have not been incidents, at which the pilot is not at fault. All pilots have a close call, he said.

"There is so much exposure. You fly long enough, you'll be exposed to something," Mr Manganaro said. As an instructor, he was once in a situation in which another instructor and student side-slipped his student's plane and a midair collision was narrowly avoided. In another incident over New York, the air conditioning failed, causing the entire plane to fill up with smoke. Improving on standard procedures, he was able to rid the plane of the smoke and land safely in Bridgeport. He has had an incident of an engine failure upon takeoff, but was able to safely land the plane.

Experience and confidence play into being able to successfully handle any issue that comes up, though, he believes. Preparation and attention to detail have also contributed to his many years of safe flight, as has the intensive training he has received.

"You train for any problems. I've always had a high level of confidence. I never, ever felt 'I'm not sure how this is going to end up.' I've always felt very prepared, and never had the idea I was going to fail at this," said Mr Manganaro.

As well as his 24,600 hours of flying, being a flight instructor and requalifying other highly capable pilots has added to his safety record. "It makes it easier to be a safe pilot. You learn from your students," he said.

"The wonderful part of [receiving this award]," he said, "is that my friends and colleagues nominated me. The Master Pilot Award is the icing on the cake," he added.

"It's been a great ride for me, indeed, and if I was given a magical wish, it would be to go back and do it all over again," Mr Manganaro said. "I'm 78 years old and still flying, because I still qualify. I love it. I'm still that little kid looking up at the sky. If I can hold on to that, how good is that?"

The Wright Brother's Master Pilot Award Certificate
FAA office manager for Eastern Region FSDO, George Bennett III, left, poses with Sal Manganaro at the February 23 Flight Instructors Open Forum in New Jersey. Mr Manganaro was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50-plus years of safe flying, at the function.
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