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Pat Schiffer

Pat Schiffer


Flying was Pat Schiffer's passion-a passion he shared with dedication and enthusiasm. His contribution to aviation can be measured in the number and quality of the thousand-plus aviators he produced, as well as the range and scope of their varied careers. It can also be measured in the sheer numbers of people he hooked on flying.

Schiffer distinguished himself as a pilot, mechanic, instructor, and aviation advocate. He learned to fly in 1946 from his older brother-fresh from World War II-who taught him in a Stearman on the family farm in central Michigan. Later, after being physically disqualified from a military flight slot, Schiffer did his part as a civilian flight instructor at an Air Force contract school in North Carolina. There, he trained pilots in AT-6s, T-28s and T-34s to fight in Korea.

Schiffer was an aircraft mechanic for 45 years, a flight instructor for 41 years, 27 of which as a professor at Western Michigan University, and an FAA pilot licensing examiner and safety counselor for 23 years. Schiffer not only trained pilots and aircraft mechanics, he inspired a love of aviation. Students were generously included in his aviation-saturated life so they could experience the joy flying brought Pat, his wife Lucille and their family.

Schiffer's licenses include: SES, ASMEL, COMM, Instrument, Flight Instructor-AS and M; I.A. and an A&E, Pilot Examiner-private, COMM instrument, ME, and Flight Instructor-hot air balloon pilot. He participated in every aspect of general aviation, serving on airport boards, searching for downed aircraft, operating his own FBO and even spraying crops in Stearman and modified J-3 Cubs. He also rehabilitated fabric-covered planes in his garage.

Schiffer was sought out for his unique expertise as an instructor, especially with warbirds and water landings. This gave him the opportunity to fly many different kinds of aircraft and make life-long friends in the process. He was a charter member of the Michigan Flying Farmers, managed the Otsego/Plainwell airport for 21 years, was active in the AOPA, CAP and Quiet Birdmen, and volunteered at the Air Zoo as both a docent and warbird pilot. Schiffer logged more than 17,000 hours of flight time before his death in 1993.

Schiffer's legacy lives on in three generations of flying Schiffers: all four of his children and three of eight grandchildren soloed on their 16th birthdays. His sons Al and Mike own and operate Al's Aerial Spraying. His oldest grandson Mathew, who soloed with Pat, flies F-16s for the Air Force and has served in Iraq. Youngest grandson Patrick has his private pilot's license. Pat Schiffer was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 1, 2006.

Smithsonian Institution Affiliations Program