Carmel resident receives Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award


By Jillian Kurtz

After 50 years of exemplary aviation flight experience, professionalism and commitment to aviation safety, Carmel resident Mark Eberly, 66, has received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.

Only given to approximately 2,000 recipients to date, the award is presented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“A critical element of this award is the safety aspect,” Eberly said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’ve amassed 3,500 hours of flying in a small, general aviation airplane, and I’ve done that safely and proficiently.”

Eberly grew up in Solon, Ohio, where his interest in aviation was sparked as a young teenager growing up during the height of the space race.

“I went to Horns Flying School, popped down my $20 and took my first lesson when I was 14,” Eberly said.

Eberly soloed his first flight in July 1971.

“There were a lot of pilots coming out of the military, particularly the Vietnam War, who had substantially more hours and qualifications,” Eberly said. “I ended up thinking (aviation) would be an avocation rather than a vocation.”

Eberly and his wife, Debbie, moved to Carmel in 1992 for a job opportunity and have been residents ever since. Now, many of their flights are to visit family around the U.S., including their two sons: Ross, 38, and Eric, 36, who both live on the West Coast.

“(Flying) has allowed us to keep in touch with family on a much more regular basis,” Eberly said.

Although Eberly, an IT professional, did not pursue aviation as a career, it still played an important role in his life. He took Debbie on a short flight for their first date when they were both 16.

“As a co-pilot in the beginning, I could manage some of the radio frequencies,” Debbie said. “I would learn how to tune the dials and read the maps. I always enjoyed that because I enjoyed geography and topography.”

The couple wants to cross off some bucket-list trips in the future, including a “deep northeast fall-color tour” and a tour around New York City.