Meet Craig O'Mara, April Member Spotlight
After learning to fly at 16 years old, Craig started on the general aviation route to an aviation career with instructing and flying charter in his early 20’s. He had an opportunity to join the US Air Force Reserves flying the Douglas C-9A (DC-9-32F) “Nightingale” flying hospital for the next 22 years. The Nightingale transported Department of Defense medical patients around the US with occasional missions to Europe and the Pacific. Craig retired from the Reserves as an Instructor Pilot/Flight Examiner after a 22-year career. While flying for the Reserves he was hired by United Air Lines where he flew most of the fleets - Captain/Check Airman on the Boeing 737, 747-400, 777, 787 and Airbus A320 and First Officer on the 737-200, 757/767, DC-10, B747SP, 100 and 200 models. Probably the highlight of his career was flying the NASA B747SP “SOFIA”, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, the world’s only flying observatory. SOFIA travels the planet doing astrophysics research, producing cutting edge scientific breakthroughs which can’t be made with terrestrial based telescopes.
An abandoned Ozark Air Lines DC-3 at the local airport was his first introduction to the DC-3 and it became a goal to fly her when the opportunity arose. That opportunity presented itself many years later when the Prairie Aviation Museums’ DC-3 (and it happened to be painted in 1960’s Ozark Air Lines colors!) was looking to take on a few new pilots and he was fortunate enough to be one of those pilots. After getting a type rating from Bob Davis - one of the most experienced NDPER’s in the US - he got to fly to air shows and introduce people to the “old Gooney Bird”. Unfortunately, the museum sold the airplane, so Craig began flying “Spooky”, an AC-47 Gunship for the American Flight Museum in Topeka. One of the many joys of air shows is the people that you meet and the things that you learn. With Spooky, Craig was able to hear countless stories from veterans about how that airplane saved their “bacon” in Southeast Asia. Craig considers himself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to fly and show one of the greatest airplanes ever designed and built and that continues to “work” today after 85 years of introducing the world to aviation.