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Joseph McMurray

From jaws to Gs

Oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. Joe McMurray, a certificated flight instructor turned competitive aerobatic pilot, obtained his pilot’s certificate in 2002 and over the past two decades has added a bevy of ratings, owned a stable of different mission-specific aircraft, and continues to share his passion for aviation and pilot safety through flight instruction, pilot seminars, and philanthropy.
Photography by Niki Britton.
Zoomed image
Photography by Niki Britton.

How did you get started in aviation?

My aviation journey began in 1970, inspired by the sight of Blue Angels’ F4 Phantom jets at the Pensacola, Florida, Naval Air Station, where my dad was stationed. Despite physical limitations that steered me toward a career in medicine, dentistry, and surgery, my passion for aviation remained solid.

What were your biggest challenges?

Balancing the demands of family, military commitments, medical residency, and managing two offices meant aviation had to take a back seat for many years, a situation many can relate to.

What advice do you have for students?

For those pursuing aviation as a hobby, I recommend keeping the passion alive by continuously seeking new ratings and flying as much as possible. Every year, I personally sought additional ratings and endorsements. I’m currently working on my airline transport pilot certificate. I also participated in high density altitude training, did some glider towing for a couple of years, and spent a week at Warbird Adventures and have 11 hours in a T–6 Texan. I also recommend everyone take a UPRT (Upset Recovery Training) course. I took mine with Mike Kloch in Bend, Oregon. His course is outstanding and follows Rich Stowell, a leading expert in GA UPRT curriculum. Mike introduced basic aerobatics to me. At the time, I had no real interest in pursuing it. Up until that point I was content flying my Beechcraft Bonanza and Carbon Cub on amphibious floats, but I guess I was drawn to the challenge.

What is your favorite aviation-related activity?

For the past four years, I’ve been immersed in competitive aerobatics. Competitive aerobatics has been an exhilarating challenge, pushing me to master the full flight envelope and strive for precision in every maneuver. There’s a common misconception that aerobatic pilots are daredevils, constantly flirting with peril. However, this is a stark contrast to reality; our top priority is always safety.

Favorite airplane?

My current airplane, a Game Composites GB1 GameBird, will always be my favorite. But my 1999 Bonanza A36 Jaguar holds a special place in my heart. It was my first airplane. For over 21 years it was my companion through numerous adventures, ratings, and trips across Mexico and Canada, combining comfort, speed, and reliability with the joy of flying.

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Niki Britton
eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.

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