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"A Sky Full of Challenges"

Joe Dobronski former test pilot with McDonnell Douglas continues the Florida Air Museum's aviation lecture series. The Florida Air Museum's Aviation Lecture series continues on Friday, November 17, with Joe Dobronski, a former naval aviator and 32-year test pilot for McDonnell Douglas.

Joe's lecture, based on his self-published book, "A Sky Full of Challenges" recounts his fascinating story of an aviation career spanning several decades from the 1940's as a Naval aviator, to a thirty-two year career with McDonnell Douglas as a test flight engineer helping to develop fighter jet aircraft such as the Harrier and Hornet; then after retirement to chief pilot for Wings of Hope, a humanitarian organization delivering aid to those in need around the world.

Joe has accumulated over 10,000 hours while flying more than 200 different types of aircraft and helicopters, and has over 1700 flight instructor hours.  In 2000, he was awarded the FAA Central Region Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  He is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was granted an Honorary Doctorate Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  Joe is actively instructing aerobatics and sailplanes and holds the Diamond C award. 

General admission is $12.00, $8.00 for Florida Air Museum Members, $6.00 for students, free for ages 12 and under.  To reach the Sun 'n Fun Campus, drive-in traffic should use County Line Road to West Pipkin.  Fly-in traffic should request taxi to Sun 'n Fun after touchdown at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

            Sun 'n Fun, a 501(c)(3) not&endash;for&endash;profit organization based in Lakeland, Florida, is best known for its annual Fly&endash;In held each April.  The event draws more than 160,000 people and 4,000 aircraft to LakelandLinder Regional Airport, creating an economic impact of more than $27 million in Lakeland and Polk County.   The Fly&endash;In is the primary source of funding for Sun 'n Fun's expanding year&endash;round aviation education programs.  These include operation of the Florida Air Museum, the state's "Official Aviation Museum and Education Center," which is also supported through grants from the Division of Historical Resources and Division of Cultural Affairs, Florida Department of State.   In addition, Sun 'n Fun has initiated education programs for aviation enthusiasts of all ages &endash; especially young people &endash; featuring valuable "hands on" learning experiences.  A growing scholarship program provides financial support to ensure Sun 'n Fun's education programs are accessible to all.  For more information, access Sun 'n Fun's website (www.sun-n-fun.org) or call the Sun 'n Fun offices (863&endash;644&endash;2431).


JOE DOBRONSKI was born in the in the mid-1920's in the western hills of Pennsylvania. The grandson of Lithuanian immigrants who fled that country to escape early Bolshevik oppression, Joe became fascinated with flight as a young teenager in the late 30's and early 40's when war seemed imminent and patriotism ran high. During high school, Joe was determined to have an aviation career and initially joined the Army Air Corp as an Army aviation cadet, but the war ended in 1945, ending his short-lived aviation career as well. A young man well acquainted with adversity as he and his family struggled through the great depression, Joe was determined to fly and joined the Navy's V-5 program, a naval aviation college program that took Joe to Worchester Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University. He finally received his coveted Naval Aviator designation in 1947 and flew in the Attack Squadron VA-1L, which later became the Aircraft Development Squadron VX-3 where Joe's spirit was infused with the desire to help develop and test fighter aircraft. After his discharge in 1949 Joe continued his flying career in the Navy reserve until 1954 while simultaneously attending Northrop Aeronautical Institute.

After graduation from the Institute in 1951, he joined McDonnell Aircraft in St Louis as a Flight Test Engineer; became a production test pilot in 1953 flying the F2H Banshee, and was promoted to experimental pilot after graduation from the USAF Test Pilot's School in 1954. 

As an experimental test pilot, and later in 1966 as Chief Test Pilot, he helped develop the Demon, Voodoo, Phantom II, Eagle, Harrier, Hornet and other experimental aircraft along with a three jet helicopter.  Joe became Director of Test Operations in 1972 and Director of Flight Test and Operations in 1976.    

After retiring in 1984, Joe served as Chief Pilot for Wings of Hope, a humanitarian organization where he spent the next fifteen years flying medical missions in Central America and delivering aircraft for missions in Belize, Botswana South Africa, and the Galapagos Islands.

With over 1700 flight instructor hours, he was awarded the 2000 FAA Central Region Flight Instructor of the Year Award.  He is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was granted an Honorary Doctorate Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  Joe is actively instructing aerobatics and sailplanes and holds the Diamond C award.  His self-published  book, "A Sky Full of Challenges" was published in 1998 (web page www.omnishops.com/TestPilot.  Joe married Virginia Hausmann in 1957 and together they have four children and nine grand-children.

The Florida Air Museum at Sun 'n Fun


For more information contact:

Donna Gabriel

(863-644-2431 x112)