& WICHITA AIRCRAFT PROMOTER
ARNOLD PALMER DIES
PITTSBURGH, PA, Sept. 25
Golfing legend, and Wichita aircraft promoter, Arnold Palmer has died. Famed for his talents on the golf course, he became the biggest golfing celebrity of all time -- particularly important as the leading sports hero to America's business executive community -- and parlayed that celebrity into a role as an influential aviation pitch-man,
particularly promoting Wichita-built business jets.
Palmer became a licensed pilot early in his golfing career -- beginning his flying in single-engine Cessnas -- and owned or leased an extensive array of aircraft over the rest of his life, particularly Wichita jets.
His pioneering role as the first athlete (and one of the first major American celebrities) to own a business jet (a Jet Commander), helped boost acceptance of business jets to America's business elite.
In the late 1960s, Palmer switched -- very publicly -- to a Wichita-built LearJet Model 24D... bringing fresh credibliity and a "royal cachet" to the Learjet line. He helped Learjet overcome the line's reputation as short-ranged by flying a Learjet Model 36 around the world in slightly over two days, setting a speed record for that class of aircraft.
Aviation attorney Russ Meyer, who helped Palmer with his previous aircraft acquisitions, became CEO of Wichita's Cessna Aircraft, and Palmer followed him to the Cessna Citation bizjet line. Palmer became the "kickoff" customer for the first high-speed, swept-wing Cessna jet, the Citation III, and eventually the same for the world's fastest civilian aircraft, the Citation X.
Industry dignitaries noted his humble, warm and kindly manner, and his enthusiastic life-long promotion of aviation. Finally retiring his pilots' license, Palmer flew his last official flight in 2011, returning home in his Citation X -- with well-wishes from air traffic controllers all along his route. He died in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania at 87.
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