Robert D. McSwiggan was born in East St. Louis, Illinois on October 2, 1931. As a young boy, he often watched for hours, the aircraft that performed barn storming and would land in the fields around his home. Yearning for a way to meet his desire to fly, Robert joined the U.S. Army and went Airborne as a paratrooper with the 187th Combat Infantry team. In April of 1955, Bob met a high school friend who talked of airplanes and suggested to Robert to buy one. The following day, Bob and a friend traveled to Lakeside Airport and bought a 1941 Luscombe 8C for $850.00, which they borrowed from the Railroad Credit Union. He began flying lessons in 1955, and earned his private license in 1956.
Mr. McSwiggan attended and graduated from East St. Lois High School. In 1957, he enrolled in Airframe and Plant school at Parks College in East St. Louis. He was awarded his Airframe and Plant license on December 17, 1957, through the former Civil Aviation Administration. Using the rest of his G.I. Bill, he soon followed his accomplishment by receiving his Commercial Pilot rating in 1958, an instrument rating in 1959, and a multi-engine rating the same year. Taking advantage of the many certifications he held, he began flying soldiers who were on weekend pass back to their duty station in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He became an instructor in 1962. And in two years he began flying the hardy Douglas Gooneybird DC-3. He was now on his way to a lifetime commitment to aviation.
The dedication he made to general and commercial aviation had its beginning in 1972, when he purchased the Fixed Based Operations at the Griffin Airport in Griffin, Georgia. The FBO became a center for aviation training and services in Middle Georgia. He took this dying airport to what it is today, with its Federal Aviation Regulation 141 flight school as well as a charter service for passengers and freight.
More than 5000 aviation students walked through the doors of his training facilities to go on to be successful pilots in General, Military and Commercial Aviation. Seven hundred of these students received advanced certification in the DC-3, DC-4, Barons and other multi-engine aircraft in which he offered instruction. He alone logged more than 1500 check rides within the school and company. From 1967-2002, he has logged many hours as an Airline Check Pilot. He was even contracted to the Federal Aviation Administration as an instructor to train FAA Inspectors and Evaluators. His transportation service has included contracts from such companies as UPS, FEDEX, and on occasion taking members of Jimmy Carter’s staff to Plains, Georgia.
During these forty two years, Mr. McSwiggan has touched the lives of many Americans and Georgians, the number of which will never be known. His dedication to aviation, and his strong desire to share that dream, has nurtured general and commercial aviation well in Georgia and throughout the world.
In recognition of his distinguished contributions to the general and commercial aviation field, Robert D. “Bob” McSwiggan was enshrined into the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame on April 21, 2012.