For Talbot County’s Rick Clarke, the acknowledgment that he had achieved 50 years of flying came somewhat as a surprise to him. One woman asked a simple question to him at Easton’s Airport Day not too long ago on how long he had been flying which made him actually do the math on that.

And since Rick had started in 1962, it was a simple calculation to solve. For fifty years, first as a teen, then with the armed services, and then finally with United Airlines, it turned out to be five decades in the sky. In due course, it was suggested he notify the FAA of this milestone and they awarded him the prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award this year.

The Spy thought it was a valuable opportunity to talk to the extremely knowledgeable aviator, about this remarkable arc of time. For unlike the automobile, which has not fundamentally changed how it operates since it became available to American families in the early part of the 20th Century, the act of flying itself has been radically altered by the use of technology, advancement of safety, and the extraordinary commercial market it has become.

The Spy found Rick in the conference room at the Easton Airport terminal a few weeks ago to talk about his experiences but how these fundamental changes in aviation have changed along with him.[/su_spoiler]

For a few months during the summer a minor invasion takes place at the Easton Airport. Without much notice, almost 250 midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy come across the Bay Bridge every day to participate in a highly selective flight training program.

With the help of dozens of flight instructors, a fleet of seventeen planes, and the full support of the Easton Airport staff and control tower, the USNA offers its students one of the most comprehensive and intensive flight training programs of its kind in the country.

And heading up this remarkable program is John Galdieri, president of Trident Aircraft. An alum himself of the Naval Academy, Galdieri felt that Easton Airport offered the location, facilities, and staff needed to gain the support of USNA in bringing their flight school to the Eastern Shore. And as a result, Easton has become the home for students getting their first experience with flying.

In our Spy interview, we talk to John about the program as well as listen to three midshipmen talk about their experience as they begin their long and challenging road to becoming apart of the Navy’s aviation program after graduation.