Gateway: News

Climbing his way through the ranks pays off for lifetime aviator

Carl Domschke, pictured at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, holds a photograph of a Boeing 747, one of the planes he flew while working for Continental Airlines.
Carl Domschke, pictured at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor, holds a photograph of a Boeing 747, one of the planes he flew while working for Continental Airlines.

Even after more than 50 years of experiences in his role as both a pilot and mechanic, Carl Domschke just can’t bring himself to retire — and he probably won’t for a few more years.

“It’s really fun so it’s not really work,” Domschke said. “It’s like professional golf. It’s not really a job because you are having too much fun.”

Domschke, who has lived in the Gig Harbor area for more than 11 years, is a retired commercial pilot and a member of the RFTS Flying Club based out of the Tacoma Narrows Airport. On Saturday, Domschke was awarded two different honors from the Federal Aviation Association for his work as a commercial pilot and a mechanic, a rare feat in the world of aviation.

“Usually you are either a pilot or ground crew, not both,” said Rob Gamble, a member of the flying club and a close friend of Domschke. “Carl has done both and is excellent at it. It’s a honor to have him in our community.”

Domschke was awarded with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award from the FAA during the RFTS Flying Club monthly breakfast meet-up.

The Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award is the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots certified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the FAA states on its website. The award is named after the Wright Brothers, the first U.S. pilots to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as “Master Pilots.”

The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award is named in honor of Mr. Charles Taylor, the first aviation mechanic in powered flight, according to the FAA.

The Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award recognizes the lifetime accomplishments of senior mechanics. Taylor served as the Wright brothers’ mechanic and is credited with designing and building the engine for their first successful aircraft.

To be eligible for the pilot award, Domschke had to demonstrate 50 or more years as a military or commercial pilot with no major incidents, such as crashes or emergency landings. Domschke also had to prove he had more than 50 years of consecutive work as a mechanic for airplanes, whether it be gained through commercial or military experience.

“I began flying between 1959 and 1960,” Domschke said. “I was 19 years old. It was a Cessna 140. I went from being an aircraft mechanic and retired as a chief pilot in Continental Airlines.”

Domschke started as an aircraft mechanic until he got his flight engineer license in the early 1960s. In 1964 he got his first pilot job as a corporate pilot for Helene Curtiss Cosmetics, based in Chicago. Two years later, Domschke became captain of a Boeing 707 for Continental.

A photograph of Carl Domschke when he was a pilot with Continental Airlines. Joshua Bessex

“At that time I was the youngest 707 captain in the history of the company,” Domschke said. “For about two weeks — until they promoted my friend.”

The largest plane Domschke has ever flown was a Boeing 747, a large leap in size from the Cessna 140 he started with.

In 2001, after 36 years with Continental Airlines, Domschke was asked to retire, but he was not ready. Instead he went to work for NetJets, a private jet company for the rich and famous. Domschke said company rules do not allow him to use the names of his passengers when retelling stories, but he says he has thousands of fun memories from those years.

After five years of flying around some of the most prestigious passengers, Domschke officially retired from corporate life and became a flight instructor and club member at the RFTS Flying Club in Tacoma.

Gamble and Domschke worked together at Continental Airlines but they didn’t officially meet until Domschke joined the flying club in 2005.

“I was working in Houston while he was flying,” Gamble said.

Gamble shared the news about Domschke’s awards with friends and the community because he knew his friend wouldn’t.

“For all that he has achieved you would never know talking to him,” Gamble said. “He is a quiet and unassuming guy. But he comes across as a guy that just loves life and the people in it.”

Through these awards Domschke and Gamble hope to inspire others who wish to fly to visit the club and learn from local instructors who are just as passionate about planes as Domschke.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie