Pilots: Bud Bricker

November 2, 2009

It was tough to stop speaking with Bud Bricker of Oklahoma City. He’s one of those men who have endless stories to tell about life during World War II—a time when honor, patriotism, and character were important—and one could listen to those stories for hours.

Bricker recalls when he was a radio operator on a submarine stationed in the South Pacific. Sure, he enjoyed it. But when he talks of his aviation experiences, it’s easy to tell how much happier he was when he made the choice to become a pilot.

“It’s been my whole life,” Bricker said. “I’ve never cared to do anything else.”

As a young boy, he was inspired while reading novels about World War I and will never forget taking his first ride for $1.50 in a Waco UPF-7. Bricker didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, but he was able to learn skills such as shorthand and typing that might help him land a job in the future.

Little did Bricker know then that later in life he would become a revered aviation professional, as well as a mentor and friend to many pilots from around the world, including Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, and Germany.

In 1945, Bricker returned home from the war. By way of the GI Bill of Rights, Bricker earned his private pilot certificate in 1946. He entered the Air Force, where he provided flight instruction to many recruits and eventually served as a captain in the 58th Fighter Squadron and the 33rd Fighter Group, flying F-84s and F-86s.

“Just 15 people took the test and 13 of those fellas had college degrees. Only five passed and I was one of them,” Bricker said, adding that he spent a month and a half at the library studying.

After one tour in the Air Force, he passed on the idea of becoming a cattle rancher in Idaho and moved on to flight instruct in a T-6 Texan, then flew as a captain for Capital Airways in a C-46 Commando. While furloughed from the airline, Bricker flew a Martin 404 for NASA, and then settled into a career with the FAA for 25 years before retiring in 1986.

“I haven’t been keeping a running total since I hit that mark,” he said of his 20,000-plus flight hours.

At 86 years old, Bricker still works as an FAA designated pilot examiner. He lives near Oklahoma’s Wiley Post Airport with his wife, Patty.

Bricker couldn’t help but mention what it was like to fly back in the day in an old taildragger, landing with less than 1,000 feet in no wind with no flaps.

“There are a lot of extra things [about aircraft and flying] that I bring up that pilots never would have known about because they weren’t there, and I’m glad to tell them.”