Coast Guard Pilot Wilks Passes

By Staff Writer | August 5, 2009
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Bobby Wilks, a longtime helicopter and U.S. Coast Guard pilot who assisted with numerous rescue operations, died on July 13 in Woodbridge, Va., following complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 78. Wilks is credited as being the first African-American to become a captain in the Coast Guard, as well as the first to command a Coast Guard air station. He amassed around 6,000 flight hours in his career with 18 aircraft types. Wilks received an Air Medal for a rescue operation over the Pacific Ocean in December 1971. He was also the project officer for the Sikorsky HH-3, when the helicopter was first delivered in the 1960s. Dallas Schmidt, a friend and former colleague, told the Washington Post that Wilks “was right at the limit of where you can take a helicopter.”
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