Doug with our daughter, Alex, at a radio controlled airplane competition (July 2019).

One of the most rewarding aspects of running a flight school is helping our students and renters to enjoy flying as much as we do. About five years ago, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug Bracey. Doug was 73 years old at the time and had been away from flying for many years. He runs a local entertainment company and flies radio controlled airplanes in competition. We’ve since come to know Doug quite well, and he is living proof that you’re never too old to fly or to learn something new! Doug is a regular attendee at our Pilot Proficiency Program educational seminar series and is a joy to have around the office. His enthusiasm, warm smile and caring personality are a gift to everyone he meets. I asked him to share his aviation story, with the hope that it might encourage and motivate others. Thanks, Doug, for your continued diligence and safety, and for your support of our local general aviation community.

I used to work for JEA, and one day my boss called me and said to meet him at Craig airport. I thought it was something to do with an electrical service, but as it turned out he said we were going to go flying! 

We flew around the area and I was impressed. The next week I found myself at the building that Holladay Aviation is now housed in. Back then it was a Cessna flight school. The one time payment of $999 covered all your flight time, books, instruction, ground school and even your check ride (no DPE fee back then). That was in the summer of 1974. After about five months I was ready for my check ride. My pilot examiner was a fella named Norm Wyner. He was pretty stern, but I passed my check ride and got my private ticket in early 1975. 

After that I started flying on a regular basis and got checked out to fly various aircraft such as a Cherokee 140, Piper Warrior, Piper Tomahawk, Cessna 172 and Cessna 182. I joined a flying club at Craig called The Flying Gators. They had two planes, a 172 and a 182, both owned by a couple of controllers at Craig Tower. They kept them at Sky Harbor. The 172 was $15/hour wet and the 182 was $17/hr wet. Those were some fun times!

Life had a way of getting busy, and I went in and out of flying about four times between 1975 and 2016. Then I got the bug again and saw the Holladays’ ad, and went by and signed up for starting to fly again with Meredith. That was one of the most rewarding decisions I ever made, was to get back in flying. There is nothing to compare with taking off in beautiful weather and cruising down the coast or over to Cedar Key for lunch or just to fly and enjoy the scenery. I’m the kind of guy who likes to fly to a new or different airport just to say I’ve been there. I usually fly alone or with my wife, who only likes to fly on calm days.

But the other things about flying that really interest me are the really great technology that we have available today. When I started flying all you had was a paper chart and a VOR. The safety factor today is much better with ADS-B, GPS, and flight following.

For me it’s been a nonstop learning process. Ever since I started flying in 2016 with Holladay Aviation, I’ve actually learned more than I ever did in the years prior. I have never regretted getting my pilots license. It’s something that the average person walking down the street doesn’t understand like us pilots do. It’s always been fun and very interesting and you can keep doing it for a long time as long as you stay healthy and are safe.

I also think that to be born in the good old U.S.A. where we have the privilege of being able to fly as a private pilot is great and to have such nice people such as Dana and Meredith to rent from and be friends with is a BIG plus. And now that we have two top notch A&Ps on staff at Holladay Aviation, it’s a large plus as far as safety goes.

So that pretty much sums up how I feel about flying. You’ll probably see me in and out of the Holladays’ facility on a weekly basis. Thanks for letting me tell my story and bend your ears for a while.

Your Friend, Doug Bracey