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Capt. David Klau, Rabbi Gary Lavit receive pilot awards

Capt. David Klau and Rabbi Gary Lavit (center, left and right respectively) were presented with their master pilot awards at a Dec. 6 ceremony attended by Jim Adams, FAA safety team manager, (left) and Bob Martens, a nationally known aviation safety expert.

David A. Klau of Simsbury and Rabbi Gary J. Lavit of West Hartford have been awarded Wright Brothers Master Pilot Awards by the Federal Aviation Administration.  The two men were cited for their “commitment to aviation safety, professionalism, and excellence in airmanship, during more than 50 consecutive years as an active pilot.”  The awards were presented at Robertson Field, in Plainville, on Dec. 6, during the monthly FAA Flight Safety Seminar.
Klau, a retired captain of the now defunct Pan American World Airways, started his aviation training in the Air Force ROTC at Cornell University.  He completed his basic flight training and first solo in October 1956, flying a variety of military aircraft including the B-25, C-119, and the DC-3.  As a pilot for Pan American World Airways, he flew the Boeing 707, 727, and 747, starting as a navigator and flight engineer, and eventually becoming captain.  He has logged over 17,000 hours of flight experience.  Since his retirement, Klau flies smaller aircraft locally and serves as a certified instrument flight instructor.
The chaplain at Hebrew Health Care in West Hartford, Lavit took his first flying lesson in 1956, at the age of 10, and made his first solo flight on his sixteenth birthday — the minimum legal age — in 1961.  With his father’s encouragement, he went on to achieve a commercial pilot certificate and a certified flight instructor rating.  He worked as a flight instructor in White Plains, N.Y., while pursuing his rabbinical studies, during the early 1970s. Today, says Lavit, he spends about as much time attending safety seminars as actually flying.  He does most of his flying at night, and frequently seeks non-required instruction — often from Klau — to receive good critique and to keep his skills sharp.
Klau feels lucky for the opportunity to make his love of flying into both a vocation and avocation – to say nothing of the many lifelong friendships it has brought.  “Gary [Lavit] and I have spent many hours discussing various aspects of flying and practicing our skills,” he says, “which helps to keep it as fresh as that first solo so many years ago.”

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