92-year-old still spry enough to fly

November 07, 2004|BY ANDREW SCHOTZ

WAYNESBORO, PA. - Joseph Kadel isn't flying airplanes anymore, but he's keeping his certification valid because, well, you never know.

Kadel, 92, considers aviation a sport, of sorts, which is why he was lured into it as a young man.

"Anybody that was deeply involved in sports, they're deeply accustomed to being challenged," Kadel said.

He remembers himself as an athlete, with that mind-set, when he was 25 years old.

"(Flying) was a natural thing for a young man of that age to do," he said.

Kadel said he got his pilot's certificate in 1937.

In 1996, the Federal Aviation Administration's Baltimore Flight Standards District Office honored him for being a pilot and flight instructor for more than 50 years.


He no longer is a flight instructor - his certification expired in 2001, FAA records show - but he still may fly.

FAA records list him as an instrument-rated pilot currently certified to fly single-engine planes.

An FAA spokesman said the agency would need time to research and verify his original certification.

In October, Kadel renewed his medical certification, which allows him to keep flying.

"Must have available glasses for near vision," his public FAA file says.

Kadel does. But he keeps his glasses in his pocket; he says he usually doesn't need them.

He still drives - a green Cadillac - but prefers to travel at night. He plays golf, but not enough to suit him.

Kadel lives on his own outside Waynesboro. His wife, Thelma "Sue" Kadel, died last Nov. 9. They were married more than 69 years.

Their daughter, Susan Harrison, lives in Arlington, Va.

Growing up in the Waynesboro area, Kadel high-jumped, put the shot and played basketball in high school.

In college, he switched to football, gymnastics and tennis.

The idea, he said, was to learn a broad range of sports so he could later teach them.

He said his undergraduate degree at East Stroudsburg College (now East Stroudsburg University) was in health and physical education, and his master's degree at Temple University was in the same field.

Kadel taught science at a school district near Philadelphia for several years. He said he also helped people with sports as a volunteer and he worked at Waynesboro's YMCA, which gave him a chance to play basketball, swim and generally be active.

When he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, communications became his career. He said he learned cryptography well enough to teach it.

Kadel said he later moved into a civilian job with the Navy that allowed him to fly a few times in Air Force One, the president's plane, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The mission, through the U.S. Army Air Forces, was to fly to foreign spots to test communications systems in the air, he said.

Kadel learned to fly on a two-passenger Ercoupe. "It handled more like an automobile than an airplane," he said.

He said he used to belong to the Washington County chapter of an aviation club. The club had its own plane, but used it so much, the national chapter supplied a second plane, he said.

Kadel guessed that he has close to 4,000 hours of air time.

Not long ago, he sold his share in a Piper plane with retractable landing gear.

Kadel doesn't know if he'll fly again.

"I'd like to," he said.

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