Long-time corporate pilot William Louis “Bill” Mack, 92, died on September 24. Before his retirement in 1991, he had a storied career, first in the military and later as an early member of the business aviation community.
His first flight as a youngster was a sightseeing ride in the Goodyear blimp from Holmes Airport a block away from his family’s apartment in Jackson Heights, New York. In 1942, at age 16, he altered his birth certificate and entered the U.S. Navy, where he trained as an aviation machinist mate, radar operator, and aerial gunner, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. He later maintained aircraft on Okinawa, but his plans to apply for a commission as a naval aviator came to a halt with the end of the war.
He went to work for American Overseas Airlines, converting military Lockheed Constellations and Douglas C-54s to civilian configuration, while also serving in the Air National Guard. In 1952, he qualified as an Air Force pilot and was assigned to fly F-51 Mustang fighters at Spaatz Field, in Reading, Pennsylvania. While there, he accepted a position with Federal Telephone Laboratory flying research missions developing airborne electronics, including early tests on Tacan.
He joined National Distillers and Chemical Corporation as a captain in 1960, flying its brand new Gulfstream GI turboprop. He stayed with the company flight department for the next 31 years, culminating with a pair of record flights in GIII N100P, nicknamed the “Spirit of America.” They flew around the world in 47 hours; 38 minutes; 41 seconds; January 8-10, 1982, followed 12 days later with a record flight between San Diego and New York in four hours; 14 minutes at an average speed of 559.26 mph.
Mack was a founding member of the Teterboro (New Jersey) User Group (TUG) and won numerous awards from the FAA, National Aeronautic Association, and NBAA. He also wrote articles for business aviation publications, including AIN. He was a member of the Ancient Order of Quiet Birdmen and was inducted into the Teterboro Aviation Hall of Fame in 2011. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mary Lou, children Barbara, Stacey, Kim, and William as well as seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.