Published in Midwest Flyer – Dec 2016/Jan 2017
Arnold Palmer, a man remembered as “The King” of the fairways and as an accomplished pilot, died of heart complications Sept. 25 at age 87, according to Reuters. Palmer cut a swath through the golfing world in the 1960s as he ushered the sport into prime time during a four-year roll of dominance. He was named Sports Illustrated magazine’s “Sportsman of the Year” in 1960. Later in life, he set several aviation records. Known to his army of fans simply as “Arnie,” Palmer has both a golf tournament and an airport named after him.
His success on the links allowed Palmer to begin flight lessons in a Cessna 172 at his Latrobe, Pennsylvania, hometown airfield, which is now named Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. Near Palmer’s hometown and the golf course where he learned as a youth, his presence among aviators will be forever secured by the airport’s Pleez Two departure that directs pilots past the ARNIE intersection southwest of Palmer tower near the Allegheny VOR.
Palmer later went on to fly twins and jets, connecting the golf and aviation worlds by flying to tournaments worldwide. He piloted a Cessna Citation X to a closed-course speed record of 476 knots in 1997, and set a round-the-world speed record in 1976 when he circumnavigated the globe in 57 hours, 25 minutes, and 42 seconds, according to Golf Digest.
“We all know what a tremendous golfer Arnold Palmer was, but he was also immensely respected as an aviator,” said AOPA President & CEO Mark Baker. “He understood the value of general aviation and was a vocal advocate for personal and business flying. As a longtime supporter of AOPA, and a charter member of the AOPA Foundation President’s Council, he took a leading role in promoting the safety and utility of general aviation. I count myself lucky to have known him. He will be deeply missed by the GA community.”
EAA Chairman & CEO Jack Pelton cemented a long friendship with Palmer when Pelton was the CEO of Cessna Aircraft. “So sad to hear today we lost a golf legend, one of the greatest gentleman I have ever known, and an advocate for general aviation,” said Pelton. “Arnold Palmer was a supporter of EAA. More importantly for me, he was the hero and role model for all the things our country was founded on. Thank you Arnie.”