AUGUSTA — Retired Gen. Eugene Richardson of Fayette spent Monday afternoon up in a red, white and blue Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182 shooting photos of the demolition of Great Works Dam in Bradley.

It was a practice shoot and readiness exercise for the Civil Air Patrol Wing, which works frequently with the Maine Emergency Management Agency.

And when the small plane landed at the Augusta State Airport, a hangar door rose on a celebration designed to recognize his 50-year flying career.

Richardson, 72, received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from John Wood, who manages the Federal Aviation Administration’s safety team program out of Portland.

The award puts Richardson in a rare category with about a half-dozen other pilots annually in northern New England. Like Richardson, most of them are still flying, Wood said.

“If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Richardson said.

Richardson’s wife, Pam, greeted him with a kiss, and a grandson, Jarrad Schmidt, 11, of Readfield, talked about the experience of flying with his grandfather at the controls.

“It’s fun because you get to look out the window all the time and have headsets on,” Jarrad said.

Richardson was a passenger on Monday’s flight. It was handled by Civil Air Patrol Capt. David Barker, who has been aloft many times with Richardson at the controls. “He’s the consummate professional — everything by the book,” Barker said.

Richardson has more than 10,300 hours of flying, and he’s still rated on a number of craft. Capt. Stephen Vorpagel of Readfield said that Richardson qualified two weeks ago to as a civilian instructor in “everything but a glider and a balloon.”

Some of the memorabilia at the event portrayed Richardson’s earlier flying years and included certificates and photos of him being honored for rescues while he was piloting a National Guard helicopter.

With short dark hair and a flying suit on, the older Richardson doesn’t look much different.

Among his more famous rescues, he plucked five climbers off Mount Katahdin in February 1974, despite violent winds, snow and subzero temperatures.

In 1980 he rescued victims of a cabin fire near Katahdin Iron Works. Richardson said he could see them standing on the shore waving for help. He flew them first to a Bangor hospital and eventually they were sent to a burn unit in a Portland hospital.

Richardson graduated first in his class from Army Aviation Flight School in 1963 and was the first aviator to be named U.S. Army Aviator of the Year.

He will spend time next month instructing cadets in the Civil Air Patrol’s Air Academy, according to Capt. Mary Story, public affairs officer with the Civil Air Patrol Maine Wing.

Richardson flew with the 112th Medical Company from 1963 and was unit commander 1972-74. He retired from the Guard as a brigadier general in 2000.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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