Two More Vie For “Oldest Pilot” Title


When George Neal, 96, flew his de Havilland Chipmunk in Canada to qualify as the “world’s oldest active pilot” in the Guinness Book of World Records, it wasn’t surprising to hear about pilots who are older yet. Among them, at least elsewhere in North America, are two fellow nonagenarians who will celebrate their birthdays in the coming weeks. A.J. “Lefty” Leftwich of McClouth, Kansas, also known as Jack, will turn 98 on Aug. 6. He’s a retired Pan American captain who worked for the airline during World War II and went on to fly for the airline internationally. His son, Bill Leftwich, told AVweb in an email he will be in McClouth with his father on his birthday. Lefty plans to go up in his Quicksilver MX Sport II at his airport, Threshing Bee, provided he’s up for it, his son said. “The last time he flew was on his birthday last year when he turned 97,” he said. “Ipulled theQuicksilver MX Sport II out of his hangar and got it ready for him. I actually built this for his 88th birthday after he gave up flying his Cessna 172.He flew all around town for about an hour and landed just as the sun was setting.”

L.M. “Jack” Tolbert of Keller, Texas, who among other titles is a retired American Airlines captain, answered AVweb’s query with proof of his age and a picture of his tailwheel-converted Cessna, serial number 59001. “It was the first 150 produced by Cessna,” he wrote. He’ll be 97 on Aug. 16. The annual newsletter of the Grey Eagles, made up of retired American employees, noted Tolbert’s 2014 wedding to Velma Guy, who was a flight attendant for the airline.Family friend Steve Smith told AVweb in an email he had lunch with Tolbert recently. “He came bounding into the restaurant like he was 30 years younger,” he wrote.“His friends told him he should slow down and take his time. ‘Take my time?’ he replied. ‘Are you kidding? I’m 96 years old!'”