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Perfect Pilots

Perfect Pilots

For every pilot, safety is paramount. But we all know mistakes can happen; we’re only human.  I don’t know many drivers who have never received a traffic ticket, or never had a fender bender, but I do know several pilots who happen to have a perfect safety record in the sky – and they’ve been doing it that way for the past fifty years.

The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award is the most prestigious recognition the FAA issues to general aviation pilots. This award is named after the first pilots, Orville and Wilbur Wright, and goes beyond “just” 50 years of safe flying.


FAA Administrator Michael Huerta presents Flight Standards Service Executive Director John Duncan the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

This award also recognizes the highest level of aviation professionalism, skill and expertise - all qualities that are consistent with what you would expect from someone who merits a Master Pilot Award from the federal agency responsible for aviation safety.

Recently, two more Master Pilots joined this exclusive club of American safety aces: Bill Kelley, of Herron, Michigan and John Duncan, of Washington, DC. More than 4,100 U.S. citizen pilots have received the Master Pilot award, and their names are published on the FAA’s "Roll of Honor."

A retired school teacher, Mr. Kelley still flies a Cessna 140 he bought in 1966 and has more than 3,000 hours of flight time. Over his five decades of safe flying, Kelley has been no stranger to the FAA. He earned a commercial certification and instrument rating, and eventually got certified as a flight instructor and aircraft mechanic. Read more about Master Pilot Bill Kelley.


John Duncan, in his earlier years, in the process of becoming a pilot.

John Duncan started flight training in 1964, with a first solo in 1965. He went on to become a professional with an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with commercial privileges in seaplanes and gliders, and flew safely in a variety of roles as a private pilot, commercial pilot, flight instructor, corporate pilot, air carrier pilot and flight instructor. He started his career at the FAA in 1986 as an Aviation Safety Inspector in Cincinnati, and today he leads the office responsible for all FAA safety inspectors.


John Duncan sits inside the cockpit of an AIRBUS.

His professional life here at the FAA requires him to focus on safety assurance in the realm of commercial aviation. It’s a big job, and he’s terrific at it. We’re truly lucky to have him as part of our team.  When he’s not on the clock, John flies a Cherokee and a Titan Tornado Light Sport Aircraft.

Both Bill and John are enthusiastic aviators with a lifelong, heartfelt passion for all segments of aviation – and today, they can add a new title to their collection of aviation certifications as our newest Wright Brothers Master Pilots.

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