Jacobs' 50 years of flight feted by FAA

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Hazel Jacobs holds a photo montage honoring her recent Master Pilot Award for more than 50 years of exemplary service. Photo by Mary Kay McPartlin.

Hazel Jacobs fell in love with flying right around the same time she fell in love. The first boy picked her up for a date in a plane, turned the plane upside down causing her poodle skirt to fly up.

Jacobs was not impressed, although the two are still close friends. When Richard Jacobs took her up in his plane, he kept her upright, and the two became inseparable.

During her college years at Siena Heights, Jacobs and her friends spent many hours in the air, traveling all over the area. “We flew all over the place,” Jacobs said.

The Dominican nuns at Siena were very strict with curfews, and Jacobs remembers one flight expedition with friends had a delayed return because of a snowstorm. She wasn’t frightened of the snowstorm on the return trip.

“I was scared to death that I wouldn’t get back in time,” Jacobs said about missing curfew.

Her 63-year marriage to Richard Jacobs at first was filled with motherhood and assisting with her husband’s part-time flight school at Meyers Airport in Tecumseh. In 1963, Jacobs earned her pilot’s license and started her second career in flight which was capped by the recent presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration of the Wright Brothers “Master Pilot Award.”

“The award acknowledges your exemplary service, professionalism, devotion to aviation safety, and recognition by your peers,” said James Gardner, Manager of the Flight Standards Division in a July 13 congratulatory letter to Jacobs.
“This award was initiated by the Federal Aviation Administration in honor of the Wright Brothers who designed, built, and piloted the first powered airplane. In doing so, we are recognizing and honoring those individuals who have demonstrated professionalism, skill and aviation expertise by maintaining safe operations for 50 or more years.”

“Flying is exhilarating,” Jacobs said. “I wanted to be the best, the safest.”
Jacobs’ professional life was more than just being a pilot, but all of her experience revolved around aviation, from her co-ownership and instruction with Jacobs Flying Service to racing to twice managing the Lenawee County Airport. The red brick Italianate home she and her husband have lived in for the past 45 years, since they moved from Tecumseh, has photographs, awards, and newspaper clippings and enough of Jacobs’ history to fill a book.

There are many fond memories in Tecumseh for Jacobs. This was where, after operating Jacobs Flying Service part-time, her husband decided to leave his engineering position to have the business operate on a full-time basis.

Jacobs was a Tecumseh resident when she received her pilot’s license in 1963, and she started her racing career at the same time. For 10 years, Jacobs raced in 10 races a year, and was even featured in the Herald.

“I always had a lot of people who came to watch,” she said, and added that her family was her biggest supporters. “They loved it when I raced.”

Judy Fielder, a writer for the Herald in the 1960s, was a neighbor to the Jacobs family and wrote about Jacobs for the paper. One day she called Jacobs for a favor.

It was press day for the paper and the linotype machine was down and needed a part. Jacobs remembered Fielder asked if Jacobs could fly down to Toledo to pick up the part. Jacobs did, and took Fielder along as a passenger.

Eventually when the space in Tecumseh grew too small, the Jacobs had to relocate their company to Adrian near the Lenawee County airport. At the same time Jacobs was running the family business and adding to her skills as a pilot, she was also mothering the seven Jacobs children: Mike, Mark, Marieta, Maxine, Matthew, Mick, and Melissa.

“The two little boys sat in the back seat when I was studying for my commercial license,” Jacobs said about the mixture of work and family. “Our family was very important to us.”

All the Jacobs children received their pilot’s licenses before their driver’s licenses, and three of the four boys work as commercial pilots. The family started the drive for Jacobs to receive the “Master Pilot Award,” and surprised her with a public recognition of the honor.

With all the awards and recognition she has received through the years, Jacobs is most proud of her children and that all lead healthy, happy lives with strong families of their own. “I think this says it all,” said Jacobs.

In a field not dominated by women, Jacobs paved the way for many in Lenawee County. Jacobs helped a great number of her peers earn a pilot’s license.

“Women have come a long way in everything,” Jacobs said. “Women were easy to teach because they listen and they have the feel for the instruments.”

Jacobs energy and determination also helped the Lenawee County Airport become competitive in the region during both her tenures as manager. “We were embedded in the airport,” Jacobs said. “To me the airport was my baby. It’s my airport.”

After her second retirement in 2005 at age 75, Jacobs now focuses on community service and family activities with her husband, as well as taking care of her beloved rose garden and keeping up with their home.

“I’m a go-go-go person,” Jacobs said. “It’s what I do.”




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