Two Greenville County Residents Earn Rare Wright Brothers’ Master Pilot Award

Pictured from left to right are:  Todd Clamp (Blue suit coat), Gere Gaige, Dan Allen and Randy DeBerry.

Pictured from left to right are: Todd Clamp (Blue suit coat), Gere Gaige, Dan Allen and Randy DeBerry.

Daniel (Dan) Lorain Allen,  Jr. is the first person living in Greer; and Gerald (Gere) Earl Gaige is the first person living in the Cliffs at Glassy to have ever received this award, and they are the 2nd and 3rd to have ever gotten this award in all of Greenville County,"  stated Joe Frasher, Airport Director of the Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU).  "The only other pilot in Greenville County to have ever gotten this award was Thomas Allen Burke back in 2013.  He lives in the City of Greenville," added Frasher.

According to the Federal Aviation Administrations's (FAA) website, the Wright Brothers’ Master Pilot Award is an avenue for the FAA to publicly recognize the efforts of pilots who have followed and continue to follow the precaution and awareness of safe flight operations. Most of all, the FAA states that it recognizes pilots who have exhibited professionalism, skill, and aviation expertise for 50 or more consecutive years of piloting aircraft. The award's online database indicates that 3,697 pilots nationally have received this award and of those, only 44 reflect a current South Carolina address.

Allen graduated Greer High School in 1965 at the age of 17 and was finally able to convince his father to sign permission papers to begin flying lessons after trying for 3 yrs.  He began his flying lessons at Greenville Spartanburg Airport (GSP), took 1 hour lessons every day for 8 days, soloed in a Beech Musketeer and eventually received his private pilot certificate in 1966.

Allen continued to fly throughout 4 yrs. of college at Presbyterian College (PC) in Clinton, S.C., Allen obtained his multi-engine rating at Newberry Airport in a Aero Commander 520.

After he graduated from PC in 69, he attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC and began flying gliders at Strawberry Hill Soaring Center in Advance, NC; obtained his Glider Rating and then started towing the gliders in a PA-18 “Super Cub” for 50 cents per tow.

In 1974, after graduating from the Medical University of S.C., Allen returned to Greer and in 1979 purchased his own airplane, a Varga 2150A (Kachina).

In 1983 Mr. Allen began flying for Aero Charter out of the Greenville Downtown Airport while he worked for Greenville Memorial Hospital as a pharmacist.  Also in 1983 he sold his 1st aircraft and purchased a 1977 CE-182, which he still flies today.  It is based at GMU along with his other aircraft, a Citabria.  In 1987, Allen became a Certified Flight Instructor.  Allen serves as a flight adviser for the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA).

Gaige soloed in 1965 in a Cessna 150 in Midland, TX and obtained his Private Pilot Certificate that same year.  After graduating in 1968 with a commission from Air Force ROTC, he entered pilot training at Randolph AFB (San Antonio, Texas); graduated at the top of his class and was assigned to Instructor Training where he earned an assignment as a T-37 instructor at Columbus AFB, Mississippi.

Within a year he was elevated to the Standardization and Evaluation Board for that base, flying as check airman for the required annual evaluations of every instructor.  In addition he was designated as a Spin Demonstration pilot charged with familiarizing all instructors with the abnormal spin characteristics and recovery procedures for the T-37.

After five years of service, Gaige began his career as a real estate appraiser and continued flying general aviation airplanes for fun. In 1994, Gaige's business led him to Russia where, with his wife Larisa, he helped create the real estate market in the new Russian economy after the dissolution of the USSR.  Civil flying in the developing Russia was limited but he made a habit of visiting local flying clubs periodically to fly the available YAK and Aero L-39 aircraft.

After 15 years as a real estate consultant and appraiser in Russia and surrounding countries, Gaige returned to the U.S. in 2010 and, choosing to settle in the Greenville area, he bought a Cirrus airplane and continued to pursue his love of aviation based out of GMU.

Gaige is very active promoting general aviation in the Greenville community, as a pilot, a Director of the South Carolina Aviation Safety Council, and the Aircraft Owner's and Pilot's Association's (AOPA) Airport Support Network Volunteer at GMU.

On Monday at GMU's monthly Greenville Airport Commission Meeting,  representatives from the FAA, Todd Clamp and Randy DeBerry, presented Allen and Gaige with prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Awards, due to their record of over 50 years of safe flying.  "Our congratulations go out to Gere and Dan for their monumental accomplishments!" exclaimed Frasher.

GMU is the busiest general aviation airport and third busiest airport overall in South Carolina and is a self-sufficient entity with financial strength that doesn't rely on local taxpayers for funding. GMU is home to Greenville Jet Center, the largest Fixed Base Operator (FBO) in S.C., as well as more than 25 other aviation-related businesses creating 453 jobs that annually contribute more than $35.2 million to the Upstate economy.  For more information about GMU please visit http://www.greenvilledowntownairport.