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Charlotte pilot makes aviation history after flying 31,000 hours with no violations or accidents

Robert J. Burns accomplished a feat no other pilot in the U.S. has ever achieved. He has 31,000 flight hours with no violations or accidents.

MATTHEWS, N.C. — Charlotte pilot, Robert J. Burns, has made aviation history as the only helicopter pilot in the U.S. to have flown 31,000 flight hours with no violations or accidents.

Burns, who is now retired, has been flying helicopters for over 40 years. It was through the military that Burns found his passion for aviation.

As he was enlisting, Burns said a recruiter introduced him to a "wonderful thing called a helicopter."

"He said 'I can't guarantee this. But I can enlist you as a mechanic, you know, I can guarantee that,'"Burns recalled. 

So Burns did just that. He went into the military, graduated from mechanic school, and then applied for pilot training. 

Following his six years in the military, Burns left the service and became a civilian pilot. 

"I went to work with Duke Power as a contract pilot," Burns said. 

Despite the fact that Burns has been retired for more than 20 years now, he is just now receiving the recognition he deserves. Burns never told anyone about his accomplishments. 

One day Burns said he was checking his flight log and wondered if he was even still eligible for the pilot safety reward.

"I didn't really think about it," Burns said. "I wasn't able to afford the membership any longer." 

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Turns out he was eligible and the Helicopter Association International was shocked to hear how many hours he had flown with no incident. 

So Burns, with his family in tow, traveled to Atlanta to receive his plaque and kudos. 

As a Duke Power contract pilot, Burns said his day-to-day job could be really dangerous. Burns recalled several times when he had to make emergency landings. 

"The Lord looked after me for the emergencies and then my skill took care of the rest," Burns exclaimed.

Despite the dangers that came with the job, Burns said nothing beat the feeling of being up in the air. 

"The exhilaration, the view," Burns exclaimed.

Contact Meilin at mtompkins@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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