Longview-area pilot earns FAA's highest award
Dec. 22, 2017 at 11:40 p.m.
The Bible says angels are servants in the air. So is retired Marine Lt. Col. Robert Scheinblum, but the lifelong pilot evidently had a few of the heavenly ones on his shoulder during a half century in the air without a mishap.
That rare distinction earned the Lake Cherokee resident an honor Friday that's just as rare: the Federal Aviation Administration's Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award.
"It represents 50 years of flying with no accidents, incidents, violations, civil penalties," FAA Safety Team leader Joe Murphy said, shortly before bestowing the honor on Scheinblum in the Henry Atkinson Terminal at East Texas Regional Airport. "There's only 3,900 in the whole country. It's an icon for professionalism. It's the highest award the FAA has to offer."
Scheinblum, 78, served in the military for 33 years, including 297 combat missions over Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.
That was followed by a seven-year stint in the Utah National Guard, flying Cobra helicopters, before serving as a captain with Western and later Delta Airlines. He retired a few years ago after eight years flying a Gulfstream jet for R. Lacy in Longview.
In the midst of his public career, he also flew for Mercy Medical Flights, an airborne ambulance with all volunteer pilots.
"I was blessed," Scheinblum said as 25 family members and friends celebrated with him Friday.
They included one of his two sons, also a Marine pilot, David Scheinblum. (The other son, Steve, was busy Friday flying to Hong Kong for Federal Express).
"In between those 50 years, I cannot think of one moment that I regretted flying," he said, shortly before his son pinned the award on his dad's jacket lapel.
David Scheinblum told the crowd his father started out as an attorney.
"He was one of the very first Marine lawyers," the son said, adding his father initially was turned down in requests for pilot training. "Because the Marine Corps really wanted their lawyers."
But the elder Scheinblum would become the first or second flying judge advocate general in the Marine Corps, the son said.
The newly minted Wright Brothers award winner later said he grew up in New York City with airplanes on the brain.
"I just wanted to fly," he said. "I built model airplanes, I cut airplane pictures out of the magazines."
Scheinblum settled in Northeast Texas in 1989. He held his palms skyward when asked how he flew more than 22,000 hours mishap-free.
"The Lord blessed me," he said. "That's the only answer I've got."