Harris “Wil” B. Wilhoite

Harris “Wil” B. Wilhoite

Enshrined November 1, 2014

Harris Wilhoite’s aviation career spans 61 years. After enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1940, he entered Aviation Cadet Preflight School in 1943 then transitioned to the newly formed US Air Force and served through World War II and the Korean Conflict. Following a successful 25-year military career as an enlistee and officer, he retired in 1965. ”Wil” was hired as a Lear Jet Pilot for Executive Jet Aviation in Columbus, OH, by Brigadier General Paul Tibbets of Enola Gay fame. Wilhoite then landed a job with Federal Express in 1972 where he remained 24 years, until his retirement at age 80. He accumulated more than 25,000 hours of flight time in 25 different aircraft.

Military flight training introduced him to the Curtiss PT-14, PT-17, BT-13 and AT-6 before he graduated to the P-40 and P-47 during World War II. In 1947 he transitioned to the P-51 and B-25. After 101 combat missions in the F-80 during the Korean War, Wilhoite transitioned again as an instructor on the B-25, T-28, Navion, T-33 and F-86. He was a Flight Test Instructor on the C-47, C-45 and C-54. His civilian career included being an Instructor, Test pilot on the Lear Jet 23/14 and the DA-20 Falcon. His FedEx career included the B-707, the B-727, the DC-10 and the F-100.

Harris Wilhoite has been honored for his duties on multiple occasions. From the Navy, he received Wings of Gold and is a lifetime member of the Tailhook Society. FedEx awarded him the Bravo Zulu award seven times for exemplary crew performance. The FAA presented him with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award and he’s recognized on the National Aviation and Space Exploration Wall of Honor. He is a member of The Ancient Order of Quiet Birdmen and the Military Order of Daedalians.

Wil describes himself as, “This lad was presented an opportunity in life. Somehow I recognized it as such and seized upon it with great fervor. My Irish Honey, Patti, and I were married in October 1960. This was my life—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Finally, my name is Wil. Don’t forget.” For extraordinary and enduring service and contributions to aviation for Tennessee, our nation and the world, and for his service to our country, Harris “Wil” B. Wilhoite is honored by and inducted into the Tennessee Aviation Hall of Fame this first day of November 2014.