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Meet: William "Bill" L. Sparks, Cmdr. USNR (Ret)
Wright Flyer Pilot #3!

a photo

I was born in Tombstone, Arizona, April 6, 1919. I graduated from Tucson High School in 1937 and entered the University of Arizona, College of Engineering. While a junior and senior at the University, in addition to ROTC Calvary training, I entered the Civilian Pilot Training Program and obtained both private and commercial aviation licenses. (1939-1940)

I took courses toward a civil engineering degree on a five year basis, resigned commission in the Army, entered the U.S. Navy Aviation Cadet Training Program, Pensacola, Florida. I received designation as Ensign USNR, Naval Aviator, August 1941.

I was assigned as a Flight Training Instructor for two years, NAS Pensacola. I instructed in single engine land and sea aircraft. My last year was as an instructor in multiengine land planes, primarily instrument and navigation flights. I received orders to Fleet Air Wing Four, twin engine land based patrol planes PV-1, built by Lockheed. I spent a tour of combat duty based on Attu. VPB-135 sustained so many losses, remaining pilots and crews returned to states (November 1944) to Whidby Island, Washington.

After leave, I was assigned to the 1st Air Rescue Squadron, flying between Saipan and Pearl Harbor, then reassigned to Naval Air Transport Squadron VR-2 Alameda, California. I returned to civilian life in December 1945, but I remained active in the Reserve Units.

I returned to Tucson, Arizona in 1945, and established as owner/operator of Copper State Airways, franchised by the Arizona State Corporate Commission. In 1946, I re-entered the University of Arizona and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1947. I then joined Westinghouse Electric Corp. and completed their Graduate Student Course in 1948.

Bill in front of Hanger One at Moffett Field
Here we are at Moffett Field, I am second to the left.

For 37 years I was affiliated with Defense Products Marketing, covering Aviation, Space and Underseas Engineering Programs. From 1948 through 1962 I remained active with the U.S. Naval Reserve Units, including command of a Squadron in Seattle (1948-1951). I retired in 1964 after completing 23 years Federal service. Between the Navy and Westinghouse, I moved 27 times!

the team in front of the truck that Transported the Wright Flyer
That's me farthest to the right!

From 1954 through 1964 I was active in the Institute of Aeronautics, later the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). In 1964 I became Chairman of the Los Angeles Section. Westinghouse moved me to the Underseas Division midyear, located in Annapolis, Maryland. I retired from Westinghouse in 1984 and currently live in a retirement community in "White Sands" in La Jolla, California.

Bill working on the wing
I have been involved with the Wright Flyer Project since itŐs inception by the AIAA Los Angeles Section. I am designated Pilot #3!

Bill sewing the fabric to the wing


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