On Sept. 26, nine SETP members were newly named to the grade of "Fellows Class of 2009" inductees, including Joe H. Engle, John H. Glenn, Eric P. Hansen, Leo G. Janssens, W.L. Martin Mayer, Charles A. Plummer, Jr., Ola Rignell, Charles F. Stender and former Clay City resident Mark Schlegel, currently of Kingman, Kan.
"I was surprised and humbled, since it is the highest recognition from my peers in the test pilot profession," Schlegel recently told The Brazil Times about the award.
Schlegel, a 1964 graduate of Clay City High School, is a senior engineering test pilot at the Bombardier Flight Test Center in Wichita.
"Around age 6 or 8, I got hooked on model airplanes," Schlegel said about growing up in Indiana "In fact, the local drug store sold me a rubber band-powered airplane on payments. At Purdue University, I discovered I could learn to fly in a flying club on campus for about the cost of a good radio control model. That was the end of model airplanes."
While at the university, Schlegel earned a Batchelor of Science in Aeronautics, Astronautics and Engineering Sciences in 1968 and a Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering in 1969.
Although Schlegel was commissioned into the Air Force through a ROTC program at Purdue, he couldn't chase his dream career and enter pilot training. However, he was able to use the GI bill to obtain advanced pilot certificates for commercial, multi-engine and instructor.
"At that time I started trying to figure out how to make a career as a pilot the objective. When I got out of the Air force, I started at Cessna aircraft as a flight test engineer," Schlegel said. "And, the rest is history."
A pilot for 43 years, Schlegel has logged over 12,000 flight hours, including over 6,000 hours in experimental flight test.
Mark and his wife, Paulette, have three daughters, Christina Victor, Bloomington, Erica Halstead, Martinsville, and Regina Neighbors of Arlington, Wash., and seven grandchildren.
Schlegel has seen much of the world from the air, but still misses Clay County.
"I miss family and friends from Clay County," Schlegel said. "However, the flight test business requires one to be located where the industry is located."
Formed in 1955 by six civilian test pilots as a way to exchange ideas about flight test and foster safety and education, SETP is the premier international organization consisting of more than 2,000 test pilots in more than 30 countries worldwide.
With four grades of individual membership in SETP, the highest grade attainable is that of "Fellow." Each year, the current Fellows of the Society elect individuals who have achieved exceptional distinction in flight test to join their ranks.
"These nine newly named Fellows join with our previously named Fellows as the epitome of excellence in flight-test accomplishment," newly elected President of SETP Terry Tomeny said in a press release about the event. "These men exhibit the qualities and experience of what all test pilots aspire to, and I am proud of each of their outstanding accomplishments in flight test."