COVENTRY TWP. To build a model airplane takes precision, patience and a whole lot of enthusiasm. Constructing the replica aircraft was one of Coventry resident Todd Fisher’s favorite ways to pass time as child. It’s perhaps that same attention to detail, care and enthusiasm that enabled him to foster a piloting career that has logged more than 8,500 hours of flight with an exceptional safety record.
Beyond his thousands of safe and successful hours in the sky, Fisher has worked a considerable amount of time as an aviation educator, safety seminar presenter, and as a weather officer at local, regional and national hot-air balloon events, among other careers in aviation. It’s this impressive résumé that earned Fisher the Federal Aviation Administration’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. The FAA grants the honor to a pilot who has "followed and continues to follow the precaution and awareness of safe flight operations" and who has "maintained safe flight operations for 50 or more consecutive years of piloting aircraft," according to the administration.
Fisher accepted the award on Nov. 18.
Aviation was always near to Fisher both in distance and in curiosity. He grew up within sight of the Findlay Airport and remembers picking out several books in his school’s library on topics such as early pilots, air mail and barnstorming - public displays of flying feats performed by stunt pilots often at barns or rural areas.
As a young man, Fisher’s father garnered his own interest in aviation, taking some flying lessons, but never obtaining his own license. His father passed his interest along to Fisher and his brother, taking them to fly-ins and pancake breakfasts at the airport.
Fast forward to the summer between Fisher’s Junior and Senior year at Bowling Green State University, when his journey as a pilot began. Fisher was driving home from a summer job he took between semesters when he caught sight of a low-flying plane. He followed it to where he’d take his first flight lessons.
"I was far from my home and my college, didn't know anybody, and had nothing to do," said Fisher. "The plane flying low in front of me evoked memories of home, so I followed it to see where it was going. I didn't intend to do anything other that watch airplanes for a while, but the instructor's invitation was too good to pass up, and it gave me something to do when I wasn't at work."
Soon enough, Fisher had his first solo flight, and just a little more than a year afterward, he had his private license. Six months later, he purchased his first aircraft, a Luscombe 8F. A Year after that purchase, he flew himself and a friend across the country in the humble aircraft, one of many leisurely flights near and far.
"The (Los Angeles) trip was on the spur of the moment," said Fisher. "A friend at work shared my joy of flying and he had relatives in L.A. We decided to head west and see if we could make it to L.A. and back using a week's worth of vacation. I look back on this with the knowledge I now have and realize we were really fortunate to have excellent weather for the entire trip. We stayed overnight in L.A. and came back - it took several days each way in that tiny, slow Luscombe 8F airplane."
Fisher would continue to learn and gain experience from earning his first license onward. His hobby slowly evolved into a career. An employer of Fisher’s owned a King Air Turboprop - a high-end, multi-engine jet - and was looking for a backup pilot. Wanting to take up the reins of that jet, Fisher worked to get the proper certification needed to be the backup pilot.
It was just a matter of time before the world of piloting and aviation took over Fisher’s career.
"At some point, I decided to change careers again and do flight training and commercial piloting," said Fisher. "I was finding flying more interesting and challenging than the job I had at the time."
Fisher spent time as a charter pilot and commercial pilot, he passed along his knowledge as flight trainer, and he flew in his free time whenever he got the chance. With an ever-growing passion, working to become the best pilot he could came as simply as taking a breath. And you don’t have the kind of success Fisher has had without making safety one your highest values. But to Fisher, keeping his passengers safe is just another part of the hobby and profession he has grown so fond of. It’s just as important as the freedom the sky offers.
"Anybody that flies as many hours as I have will experience some situations that require good decision-making and piloting skills," said Fisher. "The times that I have had to overcome adversities while piloting were just part of the task at the time. I remember one time when the passengers commented after the flight that they didn't know anything was wrong. That, to me, was the best compliment I could receive. Knowing how to fly, and what to do when things weren't going the way they should, is part and parcel of being a good pilot."
Fisher is still flying. He likes to hop in his Cessna Cardinal 177B and take to the skies with his Wife (and "best passenger") Marsha and visit friends, go on vacation, or just go any place he and Marsha can think up. Being the pilot’s pilot he is, Fisher even likes to take his Cessna out in inclimate weather with numerous clouds and low visibility just to keep his ability to fly by cockpit instruments alone sharp and honed.
There doesn’t seem to be any signs of stopping for Fisher. Piloting and teaching has become part of who he is.
"I will continue to fly, to share my knowledge with others, and to give back to the aviation community by teaching and by doing weather briefings," said fisher. "Flying adds a huge dimension to my life, having been the means for me to go places that I never would have gone to, and being the means for me to meet many, many people and develop relationships that never would have come my way otherwise. I have had experiences and opportunities simply because I am a pilot. If you get a chance to fly, take it. You never know where that may lead."