Kirby Ortega, who retired from Cessna Aircraft last year as chief pilot for its piston engine operations, has been inducted into the Flight Instructor Hall of Fame by the National Association of Flight Instructors.
Ortega was surprised at a banquet Thursday evening in Lakeland, Fla., the site of this week’s Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo.
He began flying at age 16 through the Cessna Employees Flying Club. His father was an employee. Ortega received his private pilot’s license at age 17.
During summer break from Wichita State University, Ortega’s father challenged him to earn his instrument, commercial and flight instructor ratings. Ortega took his advice and earned the ratings at the former Ross School of Aviation in Oklahoma, where student housing was a double-wide trailer and 10 guys shared two bathrooms.
Ortega worked as a flight instructor at the Augusta airport during the late 1970s, then joined Cessna in January 1980 as chief flight instructor. He was 23.
At Cessna, he eventually was promoted to flight training supervisor and then chief pilot for piston engine operations.
He has logged roughly 24,000 flight hours.