Although Arnold Palmer will always be remembered as an avid golfer, he will also be remembered by the aviation community as a legend in the sky. The 87-year old died of heart complications on Sunday September 25th.
Aviation was always Arnie’s third love. “Next to marrying his wife, Winnie, and deciding on a professional career in golf, there’s only one decision Arnold Palmer considers smarter: Learning how to fly an airplane.”
Arnold nicknamed “The King” for his golf prowess, took his first flight lesson in his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 1956. His hometown airport Arnold Palmer Regional Airport is named in honor of him. He earned his Jet rating in 1966, and went on to own 7 business jets over the course of his life.
While the man set records on the fairway, he also set aviation records. He set a record in a Learjet-36 as part of a 3-man crew, when they flew around the world in 1976 at a time of 57:25:42 (the record is still intact today). In 1997 he set a closed-course speed record in a Cessna Citation X of 476 knots. Arnie will also be remembered for flying a Boeing 747 in 1969 before the aircraft went into commercial service.
Palmer’s love for flying influenced golfers of his era Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player to get involved in aviation. He also influenced younger golfers and athletes such as Phil Mickelson (Master’s Champion), Tom Brady (NFL), and Tony Stewart (NASCAR) to get flying certificates.
“He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time,” Nicklaus said in a statement. “I will miss him greatly.”
Palmer said he decided to become a pilot to overcome his fear of flying. His love for flying continued for 55-years with close to 20,000 hours of flight time logged. He piloted his last flight on January 31st 2011. He flew his Cessna Citation X from Palm Springs, California to Orlando, Florida. Palmer will be remembered for his social nature, love, and respect for his fans.
You can read more about Arnold Palmer at www.arnoldpalmer.com