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-- “just an employee of Graham Aviation?”

The Air Force defined its military strength much more accurately, I believe, when some leader said, “You take 137, 000 men --- and multiply them by one! “

Applied to Graham Aviation, the figure becomes 750. That “One, “ of course, is YOU.

You are the “unknown quantity. “ Your entire way of life, multiplied into Graham Aviation, governs its bigness or littleness. How?

Because YOU --- are seen in the single new pilot, an entire class of high spirited graduates, an F-86 squadron, in patrols flying from air patches throughout the Free World. YOU --- and your friendly respect are seen in the eyes of the members of the Air Force’s 3300th training staff. YOU --- are Florida’s measuring rod of Graham Aviation, as you learn to love her tropical beaches, build your home within her boundaries, and, in turn, become a “citizen” in the fullest and most civic-minded sense of the word. Towns that neighbor Graham Air Base are proud of their “Graham residents”- active members of PTA, Church and Civic groups- and the AF is proud of efficient training that has meant a saving to the taxpayer.

I am grateful to you --- the “one” who multiplies dedication, military respect, and Florida civic-mindedness into the “750” that is Graham Aviation.


William J. Graham


Mr. Graham has been awarded the Certificate of Service Award for meritorious service rendered the Allied Cause during WWII; the King’s Medal for Service, presented by His Majesty, the King of England; and the Exceptional Civilian Service Award --- the Air Force’s highest civilian commendation.


Looking back to ‘29

Graham Air Base is the azalea-clustered branch of an aviation company that has been in continuous operations for 27 years -- the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.

The Pittsburgh Institute was born in 1929 – the year of bi-planes built around WWI engines, the CAA in its infancy, a vague memory of General Billy Mitchell’s “wild predictions, “ and the pioneer’s stubborn dream of an aviation-centered nation.

Today the non-profit Institute looks back through one of the few aviation histories dating back to the early days, and counts more than 25,000 pilots and even more aircraft mechanics trained by PIA or a division.

Quarterbacking the company’s progress has been William J. Graham, president, who built a five- plane pilot training program of 1938 into a multi-million flying-hour operation.

The Flight training phase of PIA began at Graham’s Pittsburgh Butler Airport in 1935 with a handful of dedicated instructors, many of whom form the nucleus of today’s staff.

They were also the backbone of Graham’s ten instructor groups that Air-Corps readied Army and Navy students when the thunder-clouds of WWII hovered over the US. These students were from Eastern colleges, taking flying training under the CAA’s old Civil Pilot Training, and War Training Service programs. Their instruction was given at ten nearby Graham airports.

Still another Graham group from PIA was down South, primary training American and British combat pilots in PT-17s at Souther Field, Americus, Ga. -- one of the early war born predecessors of modern day civilian-contract training.

By the end of the war, Graham had trained 15,000 college students, 5,500 Air Corps pilots and another 1,500 for the RAF.

For five peacetime years, PIA and its branches taught flying and engineering to civilians. Korea, 1951, and the company was again training USAF fliers; Graham Aviation was awarded the USAF’s first postwar contract on Jan. 1, 1951 -- and a scant six weeks later, a ramshackle leftover school from WWII, Greenville AFB, Miss, was rehabbed and enrolling its first class, 52-B.

More than a thousand Korea-targeted pilots were primary trained there in the T-Six before February, 1953, when Graham Aviation moved intact to its present tropical location, Marianna, Florida. The entire operation—students, supplies, staff and Sixes--moved 500 miles without losing a single flying hour!

Once again, a crumbling relic of WWII vintage had been vastly revamped. Today the school is a modern-day training mecca with many precedent-setting innovations built into its facilities. Five hundred USAF students are being trained currently in the T-34 and T-28, and another 300 future aircraft engineers are enrolled in each class at the PIA homeschool in Pennsylvania.

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