When John Douglas ‘Doug’ Boggs was just a boy he had already planned what he was going to do for the rest of his life, a pretty tall order for an 11 year-old. Even more surprising is that plan, one way or another, is what Boggs is still doing.
“My step-father Andy Anderson was a flight engineer in the Air Force on the Boeing B29, at what is now Edwards Air Force Base. I don’t know what he did but I can tell you during those years in the 50s B29s were flying out of Edwards dropping the ‘X Planes’ which exceeded the speed of sound and many, many other world records,” he said “He took me up when I was 11 and I fell in love with aviation. One of the things that happened later is he took my little brother and I to the Hollywood premiere of the movie ‘The High and the Mighty.’ That’s when I really made up my mind ‘I’m going to do this for a living.’”
The movie stars John Wayne as pilot “Dan” and while in charge of a flight from Hawaii to California, the engine dies on the plane and he must prepare for a crash landing. All while the passengers reassess their lives.
Boggs lifelong love and career is now so special, he applied to the Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team (FAAST) for the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and received it this past week.
Aaron Varland, FAAST program manager, came to give Boggs the award while a small, excited group watched with pride.
“To qualify for the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award you have to go back 50 years to your first solo (flight) and then they count forward,” Varland said. “As you can imagine, the pool of applications isn’t really the largest out there — not only that but throughout those 50 years you have to operate the air craft in a safe manner, among other things.”
One of the things Varland said he loved about this award was some of the letters he got with the applications.
“One of the things we get when an applications gets in is we get letters of recommendation from people who’ve known the airmen for about as long as you can get most of the time,” he said. “I was surprised at the length of time they’d known you (Doug) until I realized it was your brother. It said ‘I’ve known him for 70 years!’ and I was like ‘Holy crap!’ — then I realized you had the same last name.”
Boggs said he and his brother had worked together at four different airlines.
“One thing I’ve noticed doing a lot of these, a lot of people from your generation of pilots, their careers either went two ways — they got lucky and they ran one place their entire career or …every two to three years they found themselves finding the next thing and the next thing until they found the right thing,” Varland said.
Varland said Boggs did jump around but because of this he had a well-rounded experience with several different types of planes and styles of flying — “You didn’t hit ‘auto pilot’ for 50/60 years, you actually flew the airplanes.”
Before accepting the award, Boggs took a moment to speak.
“The first thing I want to say — I couldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for people like you, everyone single one of you here has done something for me that let me be able to pilot,” he said. “There are some people I got to thank a little bit more than others and the first one I got to give thanks for these 50 years of flying is my children’s mother. She gave up a probably good lucrative job with Halliburton for as long as she wanted to work to follow me, traipsing around trying to stay in Aviation. I owe her everything.“
There were also three men in the room who gave Boggs a second chance to keep flying and take care of his wife who had got sick.
“There are three people sitting in this room right now that I could not be getting this award if it was not for them,” he said. “That’s Mr. Jimmy Tilley, Jason Brewer and Jim Brewer — they kept me flying for the last five years and without their help I wouldn’t be standing here accepting this award. I’d be lost.”
The ceremony ended with well wishes and hugs and Boggs received a special copy of his FAA service record to display as he wished.