A Tamaqua native recently received the coveted Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, one of aviation's most prestigious honors.
William S. Arner Jr., 75, of Allentown, was presented with the award during a ceremony held at the Copperhead Grill in Allentown.
Arner, who soloed in March 1959 as a Naval Cadet, retired from the Navy in 1978 as a commander.
Since 1978, he has been employed in civilian aviation and is still employed full-time as a corporate pilot.
Present at the award presentation were his sons – both pilots – William Arner III of Hazleton and Matthew Arner, a full-time police officer with the Lehighton Police Department.
The award was given to Arner by Eugene McCoy, manager of the FAA flight standards district office. It was noted that only 2,000 of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Awards have been given.
Requirements for the award include that the nominee has over 50 years of flying, no major accidents or incidents, and letters of recommendations from active pilots who have flown with the nominee.
Arner, a pilot for Greater Media Inc., was nominated by Arner III, 46, who is also a pilot for Greater Media. The father-and-son team has been flying together for seven years.
Arner Jr. began his military career in 1957 when he was accepted into the Naval Cadet Program.
He completed U.S. Naval School Preflight in Pensacola, Fla. in 1959 and began Naval Air basic training. It was then that he first soloed.
He transitioned to the advanced training aircraft, the T-28, to qualify for military-type flying for night and bad weather operations. He then trained in advance tactics, demonstrating the qualifications necessary to land on an aircraft carrier. This enabled him to receive his naval wings.
Arner Jr. was then trained as a pilot for the Marine Patrol Aircraft Lockheed P2V Neptune, and assigned to the Naval Station in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, as a member of the Patrol Quadron 4 (VP-4), where his mission was complete control of the seas – above, on, or beneath.
As an advance squadron, the primary mission was anti-submarine warfare. Using long range, they were capable of carrying equipment and weapons to detect, localize, and eliminate the enemy submarine threat in its own element – the sea.
After returning from Okinawa in 1963, he became a flight instructor and completed advanced naval degrees in command and operations and became one of the first naval aviators to qualify in the new Lockheed P-3 Orion, an aircraft designed with the primary mission to hunt, track, and destroy Soviet nuclear submarines.
Arner was deployed to sea duty aboard the aircraft USS Forrestal, where he was officer in charge of the weapons division and was in command of all ordnance for aircraft and ship tactical deployment.
He was then transferred to the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster, where he served as the Base Air Safety Officer and mission and project commander for a variety of research and development projects.
After retiring, he took a job as director of operations for Ronson Aviation at the Mercer County Airport near Trenton.
Three years later, he began his 25-year career with Greater Media.
Arner III soloed at 16 and then flew with US Airlines for 13 years before taking a full-time position beside his dad in the cockpit for Greater Media's aircraft.
Matthew Arner also soloed at 16 for his private pilot's license, but opted for a career in law enforcement.
"My dad is constantly promoting aviation and tells people about his love of flying," Arner III said at the awards ceremony. "That's his mission."