“It’s Really A Magnificent Feeling” Charlotte Pilot Makes Aviation History

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While flipping through the pages of a scrapbook 87-year-old veteran and retired pilot Robert Burns recalls some of his most memorable moments.

“Oh golly there would be so many in there it would be hard to pin down just one of them,” Burns said. He started his aviation career in the military serving overseas in Vietnam.  “We did troop assaults also. That’s when they really shot at you,” Burns said. 

Burns always had a love for flying, but an accident with a saw early in his career led to him losing three fingers. While doctors believed he would never fly again that didn’t stop him from taking his career to new heights.

“You have to have determination and be able to adapt,” Burns said. It’s that determination that led to him being awarded a prestigious honor. The Helicopter Association International recognized him with an award for 31,000 flight hours with no violations or accidents — making aviation history as the first pilot in the US to receive the honor. 

“I was born on an Iowa farm and I’m basically a farm boy and to be in the spotlight is something new to me. I’m really not proficient at this like I was at 40 years of flying, but it’s really a magnificent feeling is all I can say,” Burns said. 

Despite being retired for more than 20 years, Burns is just now receiving recognition. As he looks back on these memories and his accomplishments he can truly say, “It’s been a really exciting life.”