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Rick Welch

Niceville, Florida

I grew up in a small town in the middle of Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska on an Air Force scholarship. While there, I had a part time job at the Lincoln airport. When I had a little spare cash, I would pay for an hour of flight instruction or catch a ride with one of the weekend fliers. After college, I attended Air Force Navigator training, followed by F-111 training at Mountain Home AFB in Idaho. While there, I earned my pilot’s license and thoroughly enjoyed flying the Idaho back-country. It was also there, along with my love of skiing, that I first became involved in wildlife and environmental conservancy projects.

While flying with an Aero Club at Mountain Home, I was able to arrange for my father to finally finish his pilot’s license. As an 18-year-old in the initial phase of Naval Flight Training when WWII ended, his entire unit was disbanded before they could finish their training. After finally completing his training with me in Idaho, we bought a Piper Cherokee together, a plane I still fly to this day. The plane became his when I was stationed in England a second time, followed by a tour at Eglin AFB, which gave me access to one of the top Air Force Aero Clubs at the time. As the President of the Nebraska Pilots Association and Treasurer for the USPA, my Father contributed flying time to a number of organizations, until finally losing his medical. I’m hoping to “pick up the gauntlet”.

While completing the first of two flying tours in England, I met my wife Tracy, an Air Force Nurse. We have been happily married for 36 years and have three wonderful daughters and one far-too-clever granddaughter. After retiring from the Air Force, I worked for 25 years as a Physicist/Test Engineer at Eglin AFB, FL. After a second retirement, we remain in Niceville, FL where we still enjoy flying, skiing, SCUBA diving and snorkeling. We participate in a number of different wilderness/wildlife conservation and ocean conservancy programs such as forest trail clean-ups, habitat maintenance, beach and reef cleanups, invasive species harvesting and marine research projects. I look forward to the opportunity to combine our love of nature with our love of flying.

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