RFT 510: Remembering Morris Nolly on Father's Day

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By George Nolly and Captain George Nolly. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

On this Father's Day I want to honor my father, Morris Nolly. He was the reason I became a pilot.

Morris Nolly was a first-generation American, the fourth of five children born to Russian immigrants Wolf and Tillie Noloboff in 1909. He grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Speaking only Yiddish at home, he didn't learn English until he entered grade school. He excelled in his studies, and received a full scholarship to New York University, where he studied Aircraft and Navigation Instruments, and he graduated from Cooper Union College with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Finding money for flight training was a challenge during the Depression, but he periodically took lessons in a J-3 Cub starting in 1935, and eventually earned his Private Pilot certificate in 1941. His logbook originally had the name Noloboff, but was changed to Nolly when Morris officially changed his name.

As an Electrical Engineer, he designed the entire lighting system at the Aquacade at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, and then was hired by DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. A fellow employee introduced him to his niece, Rose Dworkin, and it was love at first sight. They married shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Morris enlisted in the Army Air Force and was assigned as a Research Engineer, stationed at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, OH, where he specialized in airfield lighting systems and photographic lighting. During his free time he taught himself gymnastics and had success as an amateur boxer. While in the Army, he filed his invention for the precursor to Inertial Navigation System (see below).

After the war he bought a J-3 Cub and continued his flight training, eventually earning his Commercial Pilot certificate with an Instrument Rating. Then, when he was laid off from DuPont, he sold the airplane and went into business for himself as the proprietor of a liquor store. He renewed his flying with the Civil Air Patrol, where he served as a Major.

Morris taught himself Morse Code and was active in "ham" radio, using the call sign W3FZM. He used his ham radio to summon emergency response forces when a bonanza disintegrated in flight over his house on April 28, 1955. The pilot, Floyd Quillen, was Morris's friend.

Father's Day 1960 was a special day. We spent the day on the Chesapeake Bay, and posed for a photo to see who had a bigger nose. It was the culmination of a time period when Dad and I had been especially close.

Two days later Dad was killed during a robbery of the family store. He was 50 years old.

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