World-famous aviator John Proctor speaks to Marlin Rotary Club

John Proctor is world-famous aviator, and this is his Grumman HU 16C Albatross, the ultimate traveling machine. 

Designed in 1944, this antique 30,000-pound ex-U.S. Navy flying boat was converted to a modern yacht. 

“My father once told me, you can’t fly for a living, stay out of small airplanes,” Proctor said. “It was his way of telling me that he needed to fly a lot in order to remain proficient and that’s an expensive proposition.”

Proctor decided what he would do and found a way. Proctor is called a “Rounder,” a person who has flown a private aircraft around the world. He has flown around the world twice. 

Proctor, resident of Rosebud and owner of John Proctor Flying Service, was the guest speaker at Rotary Club Marlin on July 10 providing encouragement to Rotarians to make a decision to do something and follow up on it, pay attention to all the details. He emphasized focusing on situational awareness. 

He said preparedness in training enables one to handle unexpected challenges as they appear. 

Once told, “you recover well from bad landings, John Proctor,” John uses that as a life metaphor, because sometimes life deals you challenges you do not expect. Navigating and communicating through any emergency or unexpected situation applies to all of life’s experiences. 

“You should know your limitations and always have an alternate plan or two,” Proctor said.

Why speak to the Marlin’s Rotary Club? 

For one, he served as a private pilot in the San Diego Country Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue as a volunteer pilot for 19 years. He recognizes that every time a volunteer does something for someone else, it is a demonstration of faith in the life that one can make and have in a democracy. The common thread of most Rotarians is they are volunteers who want to serve their community. Proctor stressed the importance of these volunteers and their dedication to “Service above Self,” thanking them for their efforts.

The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster: 

1. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service; 

2. High ethical standards in business and professions, the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society; 

3. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life; 

4. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service. 

This objective is further set against the “Rotarian Four-Way Test” used to see if a planned action is compatible with the Rotarian spirit. The test was developed by Rotarian and entrepreneur Herbert J. Taylor during the Great Depression as a set of guidelines for restoring faltering businesses and was adopted as the standard of ethics by Rotary in 1942. It is still seen as a standard for ethics in business management: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 

No doubt, John Proctor has built goodwill. In an international flight adventure of the decade, on June 25, 1991, in an open cockpit flight around the world, recorded in DVD media “Viktor, Vodka, and Raw Fish The Last Crossing of the USSR”, John Proctor poured his “arial savvy, labor, and finances into a friendship between American and Russian aviators,” their similar cultures brought together by their enthusiasm in aviation. A Cessna 185 was the chase plane.  The voyage ranged from ice-filled lakes above the Arctic Circle to the chilly waters of the Tasman Sea, covered 14 months, 35,000 miles, and 12 countries.  

Beginning from Bangor, Maine, John began (Follow the route on a map): flight stops at Reykjavik, Glasglow, London, Holland, Germany, Finland, Russian Embassy, Leningrad, sightseeing and a visit with Mrs. Gromov (her husband was Gromov, the nation’s top aviator) in Moscow, continuing through to Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, returning to Moscow and riding with the Colonel. 

Serving as a good will ambassador, he taught English lessons to new acquaintances, participated in a MIL-2 Helicopter Flight. Russians shared with him too. Together they visited abandoned jail and Russian helicopters, flight on a Wilga Plane, a motorcycle ride on the coveted and much-used: the motorcycle with a side car, and a welcome to their Russian homes’ dinner tables. Departing for Marinsk, John continued his journey to Krasnoyarsk,  Bratsk,  Kirensk, visiting Yakutsk. 

On Aug. 8, 1991, John was on his way to Magadan, Ohotsk, Buig Ivan, Bana and its chess and stress. His training, focus and situational awareness was tested again in bad weather in Vlad, there was hand propping the Cessna, smoke and MIGs, followed by Anadyr shopping! Finally, his departure from Provideniya to Nome, Alaska, United States, followed by breakfast before heading for the Fairbanks.

One one such international flight, a great highlight was the look on the pilots’ faces upon landing the Albatross in the river at Perth, Australia. He stated that closing the river at Perth was like closing New York harbor. They opened up the Albatross to the veterans of the Catalina Club, Aussies who flew PBYs during World War II. People came up to the Albatross, with tears in their eyes, saying, “If it weren’t for this airplane, I wouldn’t be here today.” These were veterans who were fished out of the Gulf of Tonkin or other spots during the Vietnam War. 

There were a few “bummers.” A first “incursion into Russia was fraught with overtones of spying (“Why are you bringing a military aircraft into Russia? and “What are you doing in Russia?”). A mix-up on the time zone had the Proctors in arriving early so the Russians assumed that with the “stars and bars” on the aircraft, it was still serving with the U.S. military. While the USSR may have disintegrated as a country, the normal paranoia still stayed.” Then, there was the problem of running on Russian gas, which has a lower octane than U.S. gas. 

Learning about and documenting the life and adventures of world famous aviator John M. Proctor is only a step. Rotarians and those who they serve can be the inspiration. 

“Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then...find a way.”  - Abraham Lincoln. 



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