James “Jim” Leon Hughes Receives the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award for More Than 50 Years of Aviation Expertise

SANFORD, Fla. (March 21, 2016) – Central Florida resident Jim Hughes recently earned the prestigious Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award. Named in honor of the country’s first pilots, the Wright Brothers, the award recognizes individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as master pilots.  Hosted by Sanford’s L3 Airline Academy , the award presentation drew a supporting crowd of more than 100 elected officials, aviation experts, flight students and colleagues.

Deemed the FAA’s most prestigious award, the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award honors pilots certified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61. To be eligible, nominees must hold a U.S. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) or (FAA) pilot certificate; have 50 or more years of civil and military flying experience; be a U.S. citizen and have not had any airman certificate revoked.

Robert “Bob” Jex, FPM of the Orlando Flight Standards District Office and FAA Safety Team presided over to ceremony with a visual tour of Hughes’ accomplishments and the presentation of lapel pins for Jim and his spouse, Wendy, the FAA Blue Ribbon package and the “Master Pilot” plaque.

“I am truly honored and humbled by this recognition. Flying is my passion and my career in aviation has provided me with many great experiences and opportunities.  My advice to the next generation of pilots is to never stop learning, challenge yourself every day on the ground and in the air,” Hughes said.

Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award Recipient Jim Hughes

Hughes was born on July 4, 1937 in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1942, his next door neighbor’s son joined the Navy, was selected for flight school and went to fly Wildcats and Hellcats through WWII from a variety of Navy aircraft carriers. From that moment on, at age five, Hughes vowed to become a Naval Aviator and fly fighters from aircraft carriers. He first soloed in an Aeronca 7AC at Auburn University on March 17, 1957, but he did not start earning a living in aviation until three years later, graduating from Navy Flight Training in 1961. 

Hughes’ extraordinary aviation service includes more than 50 years of work experience in every conceivable facet of aviation.  He was the chief pilot for a variety of flying activities including a university, a construction company, an oil company and a Fortune 500 corporation.  Hughes was a corporate pilot, a helicopter pilot, a flight test pilot and a military aviation maintenance manager for 3,000 airplanes and helicopters.  He also realized his dream of becoming a naval aviator and flew the Marine Corps McDonnell F-4 Phantom on combat missions off the pitching decks of aircraft carriers.  He is a graduate of the US Navy’s highly-reputed Aviation Safety School, and served as the staff aviation safety officer for two major commands. 

Hughes was the commanding officer of a Marine Corps squadron operating 11 large airplanes worldwide.  His final military tour was as the senior Marine Corps liaison officer to the FAA in Washington, DC, advising the administrator on matters of aviation safety, accident investigation, and security. 

Today, Hughes is an Orange City, Florida resident and remains dedicated to the aviation profession by serving at L3 Airline Academy as the chief pilot for high performance aircraft. To date, he has amassed more than 29,000 flying hours. On campus, he heads the school’s challenging King Air flight training program, teaching ground school and providing end-of-course practical tests.

About L3 Airline Academy

Originally established in 1989 and based at the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), L3 Airline Academy is the only flight school originally owned and operated by airlines Comair Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Today, under the name of L3 Airline Academy , the rich history of professional pilot training continues with flight training courses approved by the FAA under 14 CFR Part 141 and specialized flight training under 14 CFR Part 61.

L3 Airline Academy is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and provides a professional flight training environment based on sophisticated airline standards. The Academy has been recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration with the Diamond Award of Excellence for its dedication to quality, safety, reliability and performance.

In its 27 years of operation, L3 Airline Academy has provided more than 2 million hours of flight instruction to more than 7,000 pilots and issued more than 20,000 certificates, while growing its reputation as one of the safest, most reliable flight academies in the world.

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