The pilot

Wednesday, October 21, 2009.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 10, 2010 at 11:09 p.m.

Flying an airplane is now second nature to Carolyn Bomberger, but she admits that was not the case when she started out more than two decades ago.

“I got the bug and I wanted to master it,” Bomberger says. “It’s always a learning experience.”

Before she got her pilot’s license and her focus turned to flying, Bomberger taught economics at the University of Florida. Today she’s the owner of Gator Aviation Maintenance and Southeast Aircraft Charter. Bomberger says it’s hard to find time for other interests these days.

Recently, she’s found a way to combine her love of flying with an interest in giving back that runs in her family. Bomberger joined two other local pilots in a mission to fly a group of wounded veterans to Homestead as part of Veterans Airlift Command, a program that transports wounded veterans around the country free of charge.

It’s a mission she’ll gladly accept again and she is awaiting the next volunteer flight.

“I did not know what to expect when they arrived,” Bomberger says. “I did not get a chance to talk with them much because I was busy flying but they did ask me a few questions.”

She has also flown Gainesville Police officers several times on missions within the state, once to pick up a helicopter.

The initial nudge to become a pilot came from her husband, Bill Bomberger, an economics professor at the University of Florida, in the early 1980s. He joined her in class and actually earned his rating as a private pilot first. Carolyn continued with her instruction and earned a commercial pilot’s license.

She worked as a flight instructor and pilot for several companies before purchasing the assets of two defunct businesses to start Gator Aviation Maintenance and Southeast Aircraft Charter. She flies the charter company’s Beechcraft King Air and Bonanza.

Over the years, Bomberger has flown notable passengers including UF football coach Urban Meyer, retired racing legend Mario Andretti, and Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp during his campaign for governor. One of her planes has also been chartered several times to fly Governor Charlie Crist, but Bomberger was not in the cockpit.

Bomberger was a volunteer at St. Francis House and for several years headed the Koch Foundation, a charitable foundation started by her family in 1979 to aid Catholic causes.

Bomberger, who would like to see more women earn their wings, says for her, everything in life circles back to flying.

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