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Rincon's Harrelson secures most prestigious FAA award
Joe Harrelson shares a tale from his early days as a pilot during Thursday's ceremony at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Pooler. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

POOLER — Rincon's Joe Harrelson has reached a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pinnacle.
During a special ceremony at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum on Thursday, Harrelson received the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, the most prestigious award the FAA issues to pilots certified under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The award is named after Wilbur and Orville Wright, the first U.S. pilots, to recognize individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as "Master Pilots."
"I've always told people that Joe doesn't have a heart. He has wings," said Brenda Harrelson, the honoree's wife, before the award presentation attended by several friends and family members. "If they did an autopsy on him, there would be a wing-shaped heart in there. There is no doubt about it."
Mrs. Harrelson isn't a pilot but she has flown in many planes with her husband, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, and appreciates his skill and safety record. While attending North Georgia College in Dahlonega several decades ago, he took her up in a Piper J-3 Cub, which reached a top speed of 65 mph.
Roger Williams of the FAA office in Atlanta presented the distinctive Master Pilot certificate to Joe Harrelson, plus a lapel pin for him and his wife. Mr. Harrelson will also receive copies of his perfect flight records.
After the presentation, Williams said, "And finally, in lasting tribute, Joe's name will be recorded for posterity in the Aviation Safety Roll of Honor maintained today at FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. I am pleased to report that he will hold scroll number 149 representing the state of Georgia."
See the May 30 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.