Veteran broadcast journalist and longtime contributor to Aviation International News Pete Combs flew west December 12, 2019 following a brief illness. He was 60.
Combs worked more than four decades as a radio, television and print reporter, most recently for ABC News Radio and AM 750-WSB in Atlanta, Georgia. While reporting across all aspects of life was truly his passion, Combs also held particularly strong ties to the general aviation community as a certificated private pilot and past owner of a Grumman Tiger.
Over the past decade, Combs was a regular freelance contributor to AIN and since 2017 had hosted AIN's monthly "Tales from the Flight Deck" podcast examining safety-related matters from the firsthand perspectives of professional pilots and flight crews.
“Working with Pete was a breath of fresh air,” recalled AIN Executive Editor Mark Phelps. “He was the poster-child professional, but his sense of humor and modest demeanor brought a sense of calm to what can be a chaotic workday. The aviation world has lost an amazing aviator and journalist, and we will miss him deeply."
Combs also contributed print and audio-visual material for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which in early December honored him with its Silk Scarf award. In bestowing that award, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen called Combs "a consummate media professional, one who consistently reports on matters within the business aviation community accurately and responsibly."
That was just one of numerous honors Combs received throughout his distinguished career, including five Edward R. Murrow Regional Awards and frequent recognition by Associated Press Broadcasters Associations in Georgia, Florida and Oklahoma. In September, shortly after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Combs received a 2019 "GABBY" award for Best News Reporter from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.
Though equally comfortable as an in-studio anchor, Combs was happiest when he was out in the field, interacting with those affected by the stories he reported. This frequently meant he was on the road chasing storms, including on-scene reporting from Haiti in 2010 that emphasized post-hurricane relief efforts undertaken by private pilots. In 2018, his coverage of Hurricane Michael’s aftermath along the Florida panhandle led to the award-winning documentary, "Blue Tarp Christmas."
"Pete's talents weren't just limited to his incredible voice; he followed the story far deeper than most journalists, and he preemptively answered all the questions that I would hope to have asked if I were doing the story,” said AIN Editor-in-Chief Matt Thurber. “His passion for the subject and the people involved radiated from his broadcasts and writing.”
Combs was a U.S. Air Force veteran, serving as a Broadcast Information Specialist in the U.S. and overseas, and he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Georgia State University. He is survived by his wife, Karen; son, Daniel; stepchildren, Morgan and Blake; and siblings Cathy and Stephen.