A Life of Flight

Not three weeks after he was born in Connecticut, Paul Wiedorn boarded a plane and flew south across the equator to Ecuador in South America on Pan American Airways.

He also flew back to the states and then to the Dominican Republic and back again before he was three.

In the late 60’s he was a student at the American School of Brasilia when a pilot in the Brazilian Air Force buzzed his school. The students at recess were treated to a one-plane air show. On one pass he flew so close over the garden shed that if the landing gear was down he would have hit it. It turned out that the pilot was trying to impress a teacher at the school. Much later he realized that the plane was a P40 Warhawk, now his son Ian's favorite plane.

Oh, also in Brasil Paul had a chance to shake Neil Armstrong's hand.

In high school back in Connecticut, Paul was a member of the Air Explorers. His unit rebuilt an Aeronca Chief. He got 10 hours towards his pilot’s license before he went off to college.

At the US Naval Academy (where is majored in Naval Architecture) he was a member of the Military Parachute Club. After parachute training and 5 jumps at Fort Benning Georgia, he had 14 more military jumps out of CH-47’s, an OV-10B, and a Huey.

Once on vacation he flew a commercial DC3 flight from Tegucigalpa Honduras to the Honduran Bay Islands and back. Halfway through the flight the co-pilot got up, served us orange juice, and then returned to the cockpit.

While he went to graduate school at the University of Michigan (again in Naval Architecture) he began sport parachuting. Over the next decade he jumped out of Cessna’s, DC 3’s and other planes over 200 times. Once on a commercial flight back from Skagway Alaska to Juneau he actually had to land in a Cessna.

His first ship in the Navy was the USS Enterprise. Even though he was in engineering he enjoyed watching F14’s takeoff and land on the PLAT TV or live from the crow’s nest.

Later, when deployed on a Destroyer, he enjoyed being winched up to the Helicopter to visit the carrier when underway. His last tour of duty was teaching Naval Architecture back at USNA. While there, he supervised a group of midshipmen who were helping with the Maryland Engineering Challenges. That first year they built an aircraft carrier out of Styrofoam where he was the first person to crash a power pole airplane on a model aircraft carrier.

After retirement from the Navy, he became a Technology Education teacher, first in Baltimore County, most lately in Howard County. Over the years various teams from his schools have entered the Electric Cargo Airplane Challenge. One team of two girls from Catonsville High School placed in the top three for four years in a row. Another student entered one year, the next year he did an internship at JHU/APL and built a Cargo Airplane that smashed the standing record for carrying the most cargo.

To support other students in the Maryland Engineering Challenges he developed a limited cargo airplane challenge better suited to doing with an entire class. He also developed SailPlaneQuest as another flying challenge.

And don't forget the Historic Aircraft Challenge. The airport in the picture is Griswold Airport on the Connecticut shore where cousin Douglas learned to fly and got his instructors licence.

Lately he has gone on teacher training sessions with Tom Milnes to help MESA teachers prepare for the MESA Cargo Airplane Challenge and Wind Generator Challenge. And Tom helped him exchange e mails with Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria (who was an underclassman in Paul's company at the Naval Academy) while L-A was on orbit as the Space Station Commander.

He was at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center on 8 July 2011 to watch STS 135, the last Space Shuttle launch. Having also seen Apollo 15 Launch many years before, the Space Shuttle launch seemed small and quiet, but impressive none the less.

In 2015 at the Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala he was honored as a AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award winner "for incorporating the use of practical devices in his curriculum to reinforce STEM principles, developing curriculum modules; and inspiring his students."



20 May 2015