The FAA will honor the legendary Bob Mills, owner of the Philadelphia Seaplane Base, with a new award for distinguished aviators. The award will be presented during a special banquet March 28 at the Renaissance Hotel, in Essington, Pennsylvania, near the Philadelphia International Airport.
Established in 1915, the Philadelphia Seaplane Base (9N2) was the oldest active seaplane base in the nation until it closed in December. Robert Glendinning, a wealthy Philadelphian who bought a flying boat from Glenn Curtiss, built it. Glendinning hired a young Curtiss employee, Frank Mills, to run his new seaplane operation. Shortly after World War II, the operation was passed on to Frank's son, Bob.
For more than 50 years, pilots from across the nation have come to 9N2 and Bob Mills to earn their seaplane ratings and to soak up aviation history.
"Bob is truly one our aviation pioneers and a national treasure," said AOPA President Phil Boyer, who will be among the presenters honoring Mills.
Rising taxes and other pressures led the 80-year-old Mills to sell the property last year. After he announced the base would be closing, business boomed as pilots scrambled to earn their "sea wings" from Mills before he moved.
While he is moving to Florida, Bob Mills is not exactly retiring. He's taking a float-equipped Cub, a Cessna 140, and a Republic Seabee with him and plans on continuing some instruction.
Mills has donated his memorabilia to the Millville Army Air Field Museum in Millville, New Jersey. The photographs and other artifacts track the evolution of 9N2 from a flying yacht basin to a training camp for World War I Army Signal Corps aviation cadets, to the home of a airline flying passengers from Philadelphia to New York City and Washington, D.C. in float-equipped Piper Aztecs and de Havilland Twin Otters.
All area pilots and friends of Bob Mills are invited to attend the awards banquet, which will begin at 6 p.m.
Reservation requests should be mailed to the Aero Club of Pennsylvania, Attn: FAA Bob Mills Dinner, P.O. Box 748, Blue Bell, PA. Include a check for $45 per person. Reservations and checks must be received by March 9. Be sure to include name, address, phone number, and e-mail address.