Arnold Palmer Hangs Up His Wings

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At age 81, Arnold Palmer, a pilot since 1956, has logged nearly 20,000 flight hours and Monday took his last flight as pilot in command, before voluntarily hanging up his wings. Palmer has owned 10 aircraft, from an Aero Commander 500 to the Cessna Citation X he piloted for his final flight. Speaking with Golf Digest, Palmer said he would continue flying, just not in the cockpit. "Flying has been one of the great things in my life," Palmer said. "It's taken me to the far corners of the world. I met thousands of people I otherwise wouldn't have met. And I even got to play a little golf along the way." In October, 2010, Palmer was chosen by the FAA in the company of six others, including Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, to receive a Wright Brothers Master Pilot Certificate. The certificate recognizes 50 or more consecutive years of safe flight operations and is not Palmer's only distinct achievement in aviation.

Arnold Palmer set a speed record in 1976 when he flew a Lear 36 east from Denver around the world in 57 hours, 25 minutes and 42 seconds. The flight stopped in Boston, Paris, Tehran, Sri Lanka, Jakarta, Manila, Wake Island and Honolulu, and the time still stands. Palmer didn't dally, but did take time to ride an elephant in Sri Lanka and accepted a gift from Manila's then-president Ferdinand Marcos. Palmer learned to fly in his hometown of Latrobe, Pa. His last flight was from Palm Springs to Orlando.