Clayton man receives FAA Master Pilot Award

Jack Sprankle has been a pilot for 50 years.

In December, most of us are thinking about the upcoming holidays – the food, the gifts and the family togetherness. But in 1903, something else happened in December that not only changed the course of history but also changed the dreams of many little boys and girls. On December 17 of that year, Daytonians Wilbur and Orville made their historic flights in the first powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Growing up in Massillon, Ohio, Jack Sprankle was no different than other young boys his age. He dreamed of flying a plane and becoming a pilot.

“I’ve been interested in flying since grade school,” Sprankle, who now lives in Clayton, said. “My parents took notice and when I turned 14, they gave me a certificate to take a flying lesson.”

After that first lesson in Akron, Sprankle was immediately hooked, and has flown one type of plane or another every year since. In fact, he has been flying for more than five decades and because of his exemplary experience and commitment to aviation safety, he recently received a prestigious award by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – “The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.”

“I had my first solo flight at age 16,” Sprankle said. “And at 17, I applied for my private pilot certificate.”

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Also at age 17, Sprankle met then 16-year-old Victoria, the young woman who would one day be his wife. He invited her to fly with him on their first date. The two met while working together at a pizza restaurant and Sprankle said his wife has been his “co-pilot” and the “wind beneath my wings,” ever since.

Sprankle continued his flight training from 1973-1976 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Science and an associate degree in Aviation Management.

“After college I was hired by Embry-Riddle to be a flight instructor,” Sprankle said. “I supervised other flight instructors and their students.”

Then in 1978, Sprankle became the chief flight instructor with Nashville Jet Center and developed an FAA approved flight school there. He also became a charter pilot and worked for the company for two years before taking a position as a citation caption for Ryan Aviation. He flew passengers and cargo based in Nashville and in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Ryan Aviation was based in Dayton,” Sprankle said. “We moved to the area in 1982 and the company had a contract with Emery Worldwide.”

Over the years, Sprankle earned his ratings to fly many types and sizes of aircraft and became a first officer flying Boeing 727 aircraft for Ryan and Emery. He continued flying for Ryan for eight years until Emery announced their closure in Dayton.

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“Ryan had a contract with UPS out of Louisville,” Sprankle said. “I was hired as a captain when they were starting their own airline from the ground up.”

Graduating to piloting Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, Sprankle commuted from Dayton to Louisville when necessary and remained with UPS for 28 years until he retired in 2016. During that time, he consulted with the National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) on the next generation of advanced flight management computers, obtained a glider rating, and wrote articles for Aviation Lifestyles magazine, Soaring magazine and other flight related publications.

“The funny part of all this is once our children were settled in school here, Victoria said we need to stay put,” Sprankle said. “We became comfortable with the area and our families were only about three hours away. And we live in the same home in Clayton we purchased in 1982!”

Sprankle’s “co-pilot” in life, Victoria, ended up nominating him for the Wright Brothers Master Pilot award he received this year. Once a pilot reaches fifty consecutive years of flying, he or she may be nominated with three recommendations and written history of the individual’s aviation career. Sprankle’s parents had no idea where the gift of that flying lesson all those decades ago would lead.

“My parents are both gone now but they always said they were proud of me,” Sprankle said. “They encouraged me even though they didn’t know how much training I’d need and all the moving around I would have to do to move up in my career.”

After earning his private pilot’s license, Sprankle’s first passenger was his grandmother, who flew with him in a Cessna 150. His parents, however, were reluctant to fly, but cheered on their son while keeping their feet planted on the ground.

“I am truly honored to receive this award and in such a fitting location,” Sprankle, whose award was presented at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in front of the Wright Brother’s 1909 aircraft, said. “Victoria, who has always supported my flying over the years, received a stickpin from the FAA during the ceremony in recognition of her encouragement and support.”

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