Local pilot is honored for a flawless career

Local pilot is honored for a flawless career
By: Erica Byfield

MURRAY, Ky. - Few pilots in the world can say they have a perfect flying record. Believe it or not there is a "master pilot" living right here in the Heartland.

Otis Hampton Erwin, better known as "Hamp", flew for nearly 60 years without a single accident. His high flying achievement got the FAA's attention. "When I was a new pilot in WWII in Sarasota, Florida I had an engine quit over the water" said Erwin.

Talk about a sticky situation the tower told Otis "Hamp" Erwin to bail out of his plane but that is not what he had in mind "all I could think of was alligators grabbing me so I didn't bail" he said. Instead, he found a way to save the plane and avoid crashing.

Ask Erwin 60 years later how he did it "I don't know I tried to be careful." He officially stopped flying in 2000 after learning he has diabetes and undergoing bypass surgery. "After 57 years it was time to quit" he said.

Plus, who would want to take the chance of tarnishing a perfect flying record? Erwin said "I made a lot of mistakes in my life but I made very very few flying."

The FAA caught wind of his master skills and honored him with the "Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award" earlier this month. The veteran pilots logged nearly every flight in two log books. Flipping through the pages brings back memories he'll never forget, including one where he actually landed on a highway in Texas to get gas. "I got worried about gas, I saw a highway down there and general store and it had a gas pump so I landed on a highway and put in 5 gallons of gas and took off again" he said.

"Hamp" Erwin got the itch to fly as a little boy counting planes in the sky "when they would come over Calloway County I would spot them and just watch."  60 years later Erwin has pictures, a log book and a perfect flying record to prove he got his chance to soar.
So far he is the only pilot in Kentucky to receive the "Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award."