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Flying Families at AOPA

  • Flying Families at AOPA
    AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker and his father, flying Mark Baker's Cub.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Baker's son Andrew in front of a 1959 Cessna 182 after his solo.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    The next generation of pilots in the Baker family.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Regional Manager Tom Chandler's father, Ron Chandler, earned his private pilot certificate when Tom was 5 yrs old.  As a result, he was almost immediately infected with the aviation bug and earned his private certificate during high school, eventually working up to a CFII and ATP. Over the years the family's big trips have ranged from Florida to Alaska, with many trips to AirVenture in Oshkosh in between. In 2017 the Chandlers made their first three-generation trip to AirVenture.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    EMedia Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb describes her flying history: My dad and I have shared a love of flying as long as I can remember. He took me flying for the first time when I was a toddler, was watching with my flight instructor during my first solo, and has cheered me on through multiple certificates and ratings. I bought my first airplane from him a few years ago, a Cessna 170B, the same model of aircraft we flew together when I was growing up. Now, flying is a full family affair. My husband, also a pilot, and I like to fly to an airport and meet up with my parents (my mom is a great navigator). When we time it right, we arrive by air about the same time!   The picture is of my dad handing over the keys of the airplane to me on the AOPA ramp after I bought it.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    ‘AOPA Pilot’ Editor at Large and ‘Turbine Pilot’ Editor explains: "Our family’s flying background goes way back. My grandfather, George Michael Horne, became a pilot in 1918, having learned in a Curtiss JN-4 “Jenny” at a Signal Corps school at Cornell University. World War I ended before he was deployed, but my father, William Anthony Horne, picked up where he left off by becoming an Air Cadet in 1941, learning in a Stearman and getting his wings in May 1942. He served in World War II in England, North Africa, Italy, and Sicily, dropping paratroops from C-47s—“when it was always night,” he said. Then he was an instructor-pilot in B-17s, B-24s, B-25s, and B-26s, plus ferrying cargo to Europe. Me, I tried to join the Naval Air Cadet program in 1968, but flunked the exam because it had calculus in it, for God’s sake.  So I started flying in 1975, got all my ratings from the old Freestate Aviation at GAI, flew for a mapping company, did some of my own ferrying, then began writing for a magazine called 'AOPA Pilot' magazine ".
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Chad Mayer joined AOPA in 2016 as an attorney with the Legal Services Plan. Chad learned to fly in a Cessna 152 at Freeway Airport (W00) just outside of Washington, DC, and later went on to teach ground school there. This made him the second Mayer to spend significant time in a Cessna 2-seater. At 20 years old, Chad’s father Bob Mayer served for a year as WFUN radio’s “Eye in the Sky” traffic reporter while also going to college.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Brian McBean (right), AOPA Regional Manager, Western Region said: My dad (left) earned his certificate in the 80’s while working with a business partner who flew a Duke and Aero Commander around the country for business conventions. Later on he opened his own photography studio and did some occasional aerial photography on request.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Fast-forward to 2003 and my older brother Allen convinced him to buy a 1946 Cessna 140 and make aerial photography a larger part of the business. I was brought on to work on sales, and earned my certificate in 2005.
  • Flying Families at AOPA
    Executive Director AOPA Air Safety Institute, Richard McSpadden tells his family's flying history: In our family we have two branches of three generations of pilots. It started when my Mom gave my dad a gift of a single introductory flight for Father’s Day when he turned 40. He had dreamed of being a pilot all of his life. He went on to get his pilot’s license. His two sons, me and my brother Cliff, saw how much he enjoyed it and we caught the flying bug. I went military, my brother Cliff went commercial, he now flys for UPS. Then, both me and my brother became CFIs and taught our sons to fly, both of whom earned their private pilot certificates. We have often asked my mom if she had any idea what that one gift would spawn!

Flying familiesFlying families

Generations of pilots who grew from one passion

Who inspired you to fly? Did you always look skyward and think I want to be there? Or, like so many, did you grow up listening to the stories of your father, grandfather, mother, aunt, or grandmother talk of their joy of flying? Of their time in the air during World War II, or returning home to get into the sky as a civilian, or their joy at watching airshows and pride in America’s military might? Or did your parents and grandparents grow up in an area where little airplanes were the workhorses and helpmates in farmland and field? Maybe they donned the uniform of a major airline?

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.

Flying Families in photos

  • Flying Families in photos
    The flying Fristers
  • Flying Families in photos
    Glenn Frister (center), his wife Dee (left) and daughter Jacquelynn. Glenn holds a portrait of son Justin (photography by Bill Swalich).
  • Flying Families in photos
    Bob Frister (center) and his sons Keith (left) and Scott (photography by Bill Swalich).
  • Flying Families in photos
    Greg Frister (left) and his son Greg (photography by Bill Swalich).
  • Flying Families in photos
    John Frister (left) and his son Ron (photography by Bill Swalich).
  • Flying Families in photos
    Scott Frister (left) and his daughter Mallory.
  • Flying Families in photos
    Barry Shellington (left) and his son Tim. The older Shellington holds a portrait of his father, William Shellington Jr....
  • Flying Families in photos
    ...who kept a log of famous people he flew as a corporate pilot (photography by Chris Rose).
  • Flying Families in photos
    The Flying Bendelius Family: The Rev. Jennifer Bendelius, Dr. James Bendelius, Robert Bendelius, and Alan Bendelius (holding a portrait of his father, Albert Bendelius). Photography by Chris Rose.
  • Flying Families in photos
    Shelly Schoemig, who holds a portrait of her great Aunt Chic; Skylar; and Christian Schoemig, who holds a portrait of his grandfather.

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

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Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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