Joe Costa, a master pilot
Joe Costa says airplanes have always fascinated him, starting at age six when he watched them take off and land at Tradewinds Airport in Oak Bluffs. In 1950, he started learning to fly himself, a hobby he has enjoyed for 56 years.
Last Sunday, Mr. Costa received the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for achieving 50 years of accident-free, violation-free flying. Jack Keenan, FAA Safety Team Manager, traveled from Boston to present the award to Mr. Costa in a ceremony held at the home of Mike and Elaine Shabazian in West Tisbury.
About 80 people attended the event, a mix of family, friends, and flying aficionados. Mr. Keenan presented Mr. Costa with a framed certificate, and gave his wife Vivian a lapel pin, in honor of putting up with her husband's hobby.
Joe Costa (left) receives the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from Jack Kennan, Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team Manager, as his wife Vivian looks on. Photo by Ben Scott
Several guests, including Mr. Shabazian, gave tributes to Mr. Costa's skills and dedication as a private pilot. In addition to sharing a special friendship, Mr. Shabazian and Mr. Costa also have flown many flights together as pilots for "Angel Flight," a program to provide free air transportation for people suffering from serious illnesses who need medical care off-Island.
In keeping with his flying interest, Mr. Costa was a founding member and vice-president for three years of the Experimental Aviation Association's Chapter 1215 of Martha's Vineyard. Over the years, he has test-flown five airplanes for people who built them from kits. Mr. Costa also enjoys flying model airplanes and serves as the chief instructor and safety officer for the Island's club.
Mr. Costa bought his first airplane in 1980. Although he still enjoys flying, he said that, "General aviation is going down the tubes. It's too expensive." Fuel for a recent trip to Maine cost him over $400.
Mr. Costa worked as a jet engine mechanic for three and a half years in the Air Force. Many Islanders may recognize him from his 46 years working for the Steamship Authority. He retired as a purser in 1995.