Calvin Pitts passes away in Kentucky at 89
Calvin Pitts, likely the last of the great “Old School” aviators, whose wisdom, knowledge and class graced everyone he touched and who lifted this blog to rare heights during the brief time of his presence here, passed away Feb. 20 at his home in Sadieville, Ky., at the age of 89.
“I received a phone call from Carolyn [Wilson] at 1:46 pm this afternoon to inform me that Calvin passed quietly, peacefully, and gently from this life earlier this morning.” William Trail wrote in a Feb. 20 email. “She said he was in no pain, or discomfort.” His death was not unexpected, as he’d been in failing health for the past several months, but is painful nonetheless.
Calvin is survived by his wife Wanda, two sons, Darrell and Steven Pitts, stepdaughter Sharon Lynn, and stepson Robert Lee Clark, three grandchildren Kate, Rachel, and Melissa, a brother Joe (Virginia) Pitts, a sister Joyce (Mike) Welch, and several nieces & nephews. Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to Wanda, his family and friends. He will be greatly missed. The funeral home produced a musical slide show in Calvin’s memory; to view Calvin’s obituary please click here.
Calvin was perhaps best known for his 1981 world flight, when he and two co-pilots commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the Wiley Post-Harold Gatty World Flight in 1931. The 1981 flight was sponsored in part by the Oklahoma Air & Space Museum to honor the Oklahoma aviator Post.
They flew a single-engine 1980 Beechcraft A36 Spirit of Winnie Mae, named after Post’s Lockheed Vega, the Winnie Mae. To read Calvin’s recollections of his around-the-world journey, please click here.
During his long and accomplished aviation career as an instructor, corporate pilot, airline pilot, flight manager, training manager and engineering test pilot, Calvin has flown antique planes to airshows, trained pilots and flown a multitude of single and multi-engine aircraft, including Twin Otters, DHC-7s, Aero Commanders, Metro IIIs, Lear Jets and Boeing 727s. He also worked for 10 years in public affairs for NASA at the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif.; and NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Closer to home, Calvin’s stunning, five-part analysis of Amelia’s last flight, “Earhart’s Disappearing Footprints” in 2018, is one of the finest pieces of work ever presented on this blog. When he wasn’t teaching and expounding on his brilliant, comprehensive vision of Earhart’s last days, he was encouraging us in our own work, spurring us on to do our best. Calvin was truly one of a kind, a rare human being who will never be duplicated down here.
Calvin’s true decency, humanity and goodness transcended his vast technical knowledge and even his love for Amelia Earhart, her story and her legacy. Nowhere was this more evident to me during my relatively brief time as his friend than his conciliatory words toward the hypocrites and phonies at the International Forest of Friendship when they not only rejected this blog, but ignored his beautifully written letter appealing to their better angels, which, as it turned out, did not exist. For the full story of this deplorable situation, please see my Jan. 24, 2022 post, “IFF rejects Calvin Pitts’ appeal, refuses to engage.”
Ever the Christian gentleman, Calvin’s response to those who least despise him and his firm convictions about Amelia Earhart, were words of forgiveness and compassion that few of us could ever possibly emulate:
In times like this, when we encounter those who out of fear, misplaced loyalties and willful ignorance refuse to do the right thing, the best we can do is try to forgive them and move on. We can also try to pray that someday the light will come on in their dim minds, and they might consider joining those of us who can honor the legacy of Amelia Earhart and revere and honor the truth in the same breath — something they’ve proven themselves incapable of at this time.
Fortunately, due to the professional research, the tedious work, and a love for truth as displayed in Mike Campbell’s stellar book, THE TRUTH AT LAST, coupled with other gifted researchers, writers, and eyewitnesses, we were introduced to some of the private, unpublished knowledge of men like Adm. Chester Nimitz Jr., Gen. Alexander Vandegrift, Gen. Graves Erskine, Gen. Tommy Watson, and a host of eyewitnesses who told their stories. Because of men and women like that, we know the end of the Earhart story, and are able to lay to rest the amazing life of a beautiful woman who has earned her rest.
The last time Calvin contacted me directly was in late June 2022, when he wrote me an extremely kind, personally meaningful message, as were all of his missives, which said in part:
As I’ve thought before, I knew you were good, and were my kind of truth-telling Journalist but this analysis and response just broke my “Excellence” meter. You outdid yourself.
If a person loves honesty-with-evidence, they will be hard-put to deny what you have written, not only in this current piece, but in the massive material you brought together in your TRUTH AT LAST tome of persuasive facts and eye-witness reports.
He told me many other things over the past few years, personal, priceless, unforgettable things that will stay in my heart, to be savored and cherished always.
If you believe in Heaven, as I do, then it’s not hard to imagine that Amelia Earhart, resplendent in a starry white gown specially woven by Seraphim for the occasion, was among the first to welcome Calvin Pitts as he crossed over and entered his Eternal Home, where he’ll forever enjoy fair skies, following seas and happy landings. They will have much to talk about.
Requiescat in pace, Calvin.