You grew up in an airplane family. And although not all your siblings followed suit, you did. You sat on your father’s knee and held the controls, you navigated from the right seat while your mom sat in the left, and you competed with your brother to get your certificate first. You’re from a flying family.
The Bible traces lineages with begats, a genealogical list of who came from whom. The flying heritage of the Frister family of Dover, New Jersey, reads like the begats. There’s Bob, who started flying as a teen and was the first of the four brothers in aviation. There’s Glenn, who followed his brother and had a 58-year flying career. There’s Greg, who is a pilot for Executive Jet Management. And there’s John, whom Glenn instructed and gave his checkride.
Bob has two sons, Keith and Scott, who both started flying as teenagers like their father—and who both are pilots for major airlines. Scott has daughter Mallory, who is a private pilot studying at Baylor College in Texas and who hopes to work in the airlines, too, or maybe fly missionary flights.
Glenn met his multiengine-rated wife while they both worked at Ozark Airlines; Dee soloed in just nine and a half hours in 1971. They have daughter Jacquelynn, a private pilot who soloed in 1998 after just 13 hours. The couple’s late son Justin also was a private pilot, and he soloed in 15 hours.
Greg has son Greg who is an instrument-rated private pilot. John’s son Ron started flying at age 16 and also was instructed by his Uncle Glenn.
As the oldest of four brothers, Bob Frister grew up in the years during World War II, watching movies and reading books on flying. His hero was Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s top ace of World War I. Rickenbacker bought Eastern Air Lines in 1938 and served as its president until 1959, and on its board until 1963. Bob soloed in 1954 in a Piper J–3 Cub and served in the U.S. Navy. He joined Eastern in 1964 and flew for the airline until it shut down in 1991. While at Eastern, Bob met his hero; “It was my honor to shake his hand,” he said. In 1970, Bob as first officer—along with Capt. John Brady and second officer David Claire—set a record flying time of two hours and 29 minutes in a Boeing 727 from Houston to Newark, New Jersey, on Eastern F592. “Our average groundspeed was 561.85 mph, but because of the extreme tailwinds we had, our groundspeed at times exceeded 600 mph,” he said. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the record; the scheduled flight time was three hours, five minutes.
Bob’s sons spent many hours with their dad in the cockpit, and their flight instructor was the son of their father’s instructor. Both became U.S. Air Force pilots and both saw combat; Scott in Operation Desert Storm and Keith in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Scott is now a captain with United Airlines and Keith is a first officer with Southwest. Mallory, Scott’s daughter, is currently working on her commercial certificate, and Andrew, his son, is studying to be an air traffic controller at Arizona State University.
Bob’s brother Glenn began flying in Teterboro, New Jersey, in 1959 and soloed on a grass strip in a Piper J–3 Cub in 1960. He was a bush pilot in Alaska, flew for Ozark Airlines, and retired after 11 years with TWA. He logged more than 39,000 hours before his retirement in 1998. His Cessna 150 is hangared at Creve Coeur Airport in Missouri, where he and wife Dee retired. He currently has 14 students at the very busy Creve Coeur Airport. Jacquelynn isn’t flying currently as she is busy raising her children and son Justin had amassed nearly 300 hours, sadly, before his death last year.
The third brother, Greg, was taught by his brother Glenn and received his private pilot certificate in 1970. He is a commercial, instrument-rated, multiengine CFI and, like his brothers, also flew for Eastern Air Lines. “I have more than 19,000 accident-free hours of flying fun,” he said. “I hope my brother Glenn and I can be included in the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot list for flying continuously for more than 50 years.” Son Greg is a line service technician at DuPage Flight Center at DuPage Airport in West Chicago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation administration at Lewis University, and has his private and instrument certificates. He’s currently working on his commercial certificate and plans on getting his CFI. “My decision to become a pilot has a lot to do with my dad and the flying history of our family,” he said. “I would love to travel the world and see it the way my dad does.”
The youngest brother, John, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 until 1956. He served as an airborne radio operator and on the air/sea rescue squadron at Hamilton Air Force Base in California. He obtained his private pilot certificate in 1970 and passed on his love of flying to his son, Ron. Ron hoped to become an airline pilot like his cousins but failed the then-mandatory color-blindness test in 1978. Once established in his technology career, he pursued flying; he is now instrument rated and has his flight instructor certificate. “My career took me all over the world and I probably have flown as much as a [airline] pilot,” he said.
“The only question remains is, had I passed the medical on my first attempt, which airline would I be flying for?”
“Needless to say I am very proud of the fact that so many of my family members have taken to the skies,” Bob Frister said. “And that five of us were fortunate to fly for a major airline.”
A ‘pilot’s pilot’
Barry Shellington is rightfully proud of his father. William H. Shellington Jr. was a fighter pilot during World War II. The younger Shellington remembers all the stories of his father’s famous exploits during the war, including when his aircraft was clipped flying formation and he bailed out into the ocean. He removed his clothing as he had been instructed. As he floated in the sea, a passing aircraft carrier tossed him a rope and he attempted to hold on, only to have his hands bleeding and torn when it took off. Finally rescued, the ship’s captain said: “Interesting how the Navy is outfitting its pilots these days.”
Shellington says his father owned an airplane—a Cub—before he owned a car. After the war he started Pennsylvania’s Atlantic Aviation, was responsible for the first aerial traffic reporting for vacationers headed to the Jersey shore, and ended his career flying corporate aircraft for the Campbell Soup Co. The younger Shellington remembers flying with his father even as a child, his father saying to him, “Fly to a heading of 180 degrees and hold altitude at 2,500 feet.” He eventually opened a powered parachute dealership, which is now the second oldest in the world, in Paoli, Pennsylvania.
Barry’s son Tim was just 6 months old when he took his first airplane ride, from home in Pennsylvania to Boston to meet his relatives. Tim had two goals upon graduation from college: buy a house and earn his private pilot certificate. He soloed after 12.9 hours and passed his checkride in 2016. He bought and flies a Beechcraft Musketeer. The elder Shellington no longer flies as he was injured in a motorcycle accident. “I continue to enjoy aviation by vicariously enjoying Tim’s rapid progress in aviation,” he said.
Together in tailwheels
Longtime seaplane instructor Frank Reiss received an interesting call in August 2016. James Bendelius wanted to sign up his 15-year-old son, Robert, for instruction in a tailwheel airplane. Robert already had soloed a sailplane on his fourteenth birthday, and it was a family goal that he be the fourth generation to solo a tailwheel airplane on his sixteenth birthday. James Bendelius had soloed in a 1946 Aeronca Champ on his sixteenth birthday in 1980, his father Alan Bendelius had soloed in 1955 on his sixteenth birthday in a Piper PA–11 on floats, and his father Albert had soloed a Piper J–3 Cub September 19, 1941. But the call to Reiss came only two months before Robbie’s birthday. “I took on the challenge and began training Robbie,” Reiss said. After about 12 hours of instruction—interrupted by Robbie’s schoolwork, weather, and some maintenance issues—Robbie soloed in a 1946 Aeronca Champ, just like his father. It was November 2, 2016, Robbie’s sixteenth birthday. “Seventy-five years after his great-grandfather soloed, Robbie went around the pattern at Orange County Airport in New Jersey by himself, the classic three times,” said Reiss.
All in the family
On April 30, 2016, Skylar Schoemig became the youngest pilot in her family, taking her checkride to become a private pilot at her home airport, the Wellington Aero Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. She began taking lessons in a 1948 Stinson 108 taildragger when she was just 12 years old, and soloed on her sixteenth birthday in December 2014. Her aviation roots run deep: Her grandfather was a Boeing 747 captain for Lufthansa and her mother’s great Aunt Chic was a pilot in Great Britain more than 80 years ago. Skylar’s mother, Shelly, is a private pilot and accomplished skydive videographer with more than 5,000 jumps. Her father, Christian, claims he is rated in eight of the 10 commercial classes of aircraft in the United States. He and Shelly run a skydiving business, Skydive Palm Beach. The ink on Skylar’s temporary certificate hadn’t quite dried when she announced her next big goal: a seaplane rating at Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base. Skylar is a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley.
Are you a member of a multigenerational aviation family? We’d like to hear from you ([email protected]). Read about our editors, writers, photographers, and other AOPA employees and their aviation backgrounds online at www.aopa.org.AOPA
Email [email protected]