Recipient Of FAA Golden Wings, Guinness Book Of World
learned this week Cole Kugel, who held the record as the oldest
licensed pilot in the United States, passed away Monday at his home
in Longmont, CO. He was 105.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Paul Turk confirmed
Kugel's oldest American pilot status, though his medical lapsed in
Kugel was born March 14, 1902, near Lamont in the Oklahoma
Territory. He began flying along with his brother Paul, who died in
1991, after catching the flying bug watching barnstormers doing air
acrobatics in 1929.
After a brief, involuntary flying hiatus during the Depression,
he and his wife, Mildred, moved to Longmont in 1943 and he
was back in the air.
The price of Kugel's first plane was $3,700 when he bought it in
1929, according to the Denver Post. He owned a total of six planes,
his preference being four-seater Cessnas.
Members of the Flying Farmers of America, Kugel and his wife
took many air trips with the group throughout the U.S. and
"He was a rancher all his life and flew from a home strip on his
property," said Herbert Sloane, treasurer of the United Flying
Octogenarians, a group for pilots aged 80 or older, where Kugel was
Two days before turning 103, the FAA awarded Kugel the Golden
Wings Award for aviation pioneers. Just days after his 99th
birthday in 2001, Kugel was entered into Guinness Book of World
Records as the oldest qualified pilot in the world, according to
the Longmont Daily Times-Call.
According to his niece, Kay Sachs of Longmont, whenever someone
asked him what his secret for longevity was Kugal would reply, "I
just keep breathing."
Kugel sold his last plane, a 1976 Cessna 182 Skylane, in 2001
following the death of his wife. Lynn Ferguson, grandson of one of
Kugel's early flying buddies, bought it from him.
"His wife didn't want him to sell it," Ferguson said. "But when
she died, he said, 'An airplane is something you ought to go places
in. I don't want to go anywhere anymore cause she's not with
Ferguson last took Kugel up less than two months ago, he said,
and let him fly it for awhile, along with neighbor and former
flying buddy Norman Wettlaufer. "He flew (the plane) for an hour
and a half," Wettlaufer said. "He was in hog heaven. It really made
"We'll miss him and wish him bon voyage as he undertakes his
last flight west," Sloane said.