Decades of flight experience throughout southwest Missouri and beyond are on display in a new book by Mark Burgess. The local pilot and businessman recently released his auto-biography “Charter Pilot: Rare Adventures in Aviation,” which discusses an industry that rarely finds itself in the spotlight.
“Well the main purpose is to kind of introduce people to what this is. It’s an area of aviation many don’t understand,” says Burgess.
That area of aviation includes numerous flight jobs such as fire and pipeline patrol, instructor flight, and charter flight. Burgess discusses having flown everything from car parts to donated human organs, getting there via a non-traditional path. The usual gateway into the industry is through the military and major airlines, he says.
“But when I was coming out of high school we were coming out of Vietnam, so politically we didn’t need pilots. They didn’t want anybody, wouldn’t let anybody in, unless you had a college degree, perfect vision, all sort of things. You couldn’t go down the military track,” Burgess says.
So he took the private route, one he says many don’t know exists, and earned his license before the age of 18. From there he began instructing other pilots, including some who were new to the industry in the late 1970s.
“Probably one of the first female students that was back in the day that females weren’t flying that much. It was pretty odd to have female students, and I was barely 18 years old, and we had four or five instructors, and I ended up with the female student. She was a good student, she went out and learned it all quick. Her parents owned a 206, which is a pretty beefy single engine airplane. And it was just breaking new ground with her,” says Burgess.
Burgess is now the chief operating officer of Ozair, a Springfield-based charter service that offers cross-country and international flights. And it’s no accident the business is located in the Ozarks.
“Were so centrally located that if you call up and need me I can be on either coast in about three hours. Where if I was New York based I would be no market for California, and if I was California based I would be no market for Miami. But being here in the middle of the US we’re market for everybody, so we’ve got a pretty good range,” Burgess says.
So what is the best way to become a pilot? Burgess says the military is still the best option.
“If you can do the military routine and do the military life for a while, that’s obviously the place you want to go. You can get the most expensive training and the best equipment out there. And they’re going to pay you to do it, and it’s not going to come out of your pocket.”
If you’re interested in entering the field of aviation, or if you would just like to read the stories of a pilot in the Ozarks, you can find Mark Burgess’ book “Charter Pilot: Rare Adventures in Aviation” on Amazon.