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Who Is Michael “Orville” Markowski?

Unique in the world of aviation, Michael “Orville” Markowski is an aviation pioneer, aerospace engineer, pilot, aviation author, writer, publisher, motivational speaker, and EAA Hall of Famer.

Michael received his first model airplane for Christmas 1951, at four. At six, he started building and flying countless models, including his own designs. After his first airplane ride at ten, in 1957, he knew he’d be a pilot. In a quest to learn about aerodynamics first-hand, throughout high school, 1962-65, he designed and built a series of wind tunnel science fair projects, conducting cutting-edge experiments on wings. This earned him media recognition and numerous awards, including “Most Outstanding Science Student in Pennsylvania,” and a four-year scholarship from PA Gov. Scranton to study aerospace engineering at Penn State. His passion was so intense that classmates called him “Orville.”

Accelerating through the curriculum in three years, Michael graduated in 1968. After four years of designing wind tunnel models for Douglas, Sikorsky, and NASA, and studying for a master’s in mechanical engineering and engineering management, he moved on to follow his dream and became an aviation entrepreneur and innovator.

Yearning since childhood to run down a hill and fly like Lilienthal and the Wrights, in 1971 he designed, built, and taught himself to fly a hang glider. Undoubtedly the right person at the right time with the right background and dream, he became eminently responsible for popularizing the sport, devoting himself to the development of ultralight aviation. From 1972-75 he co-founded the first two manufacturing firms on the east coast, taught hanggliding and aviation at the adult educational level, and co-owned and ran a hanggliding flight school. He won his cherished private pilot’s license in 1972.

Soon after his first successful hang glider flight, he began tirelessly promoting aviation to million through his pioneer work in ultralight aviation, writing and publishing books, freelance writing, and advertising in both aviation and popular magazines. Becoming a widely read aviation writer, he wrote or edited and published the only comprehensive series of books on ultralights—with rave reviews—as well as books on homebuilts, aviation history, airplane mechanics, and model airplanes. He has published a total of 35 aviation books, nine of which he authored.

Early on, Michael saw the need to share information with other enthusiasts of the burgeoning sport and, in 1973, began his aviation writing career as founder, editor, and publisher of Skysurfer Magazine, distributed worldwide. Michael helped make hang gliders and ultralights household words, promoting safety through education, while bringing order to and elevating the sport and industry to a more professional level. He’s considered an authority in the field.

After founding Ultralight Publications in 1981 and upon the release of his fourth book, Ultralight Aircraft, the FAA used it to help develop FAR 103—The Ultralight Rule, which is used to this day! He also became an expert witness, investigating and reconstructing ultralight aircraft accidents, giving depositions and testimonies, and helped improve the safety of the sport and the design of the aircraft.

Michael “starred” on national TV and was featured in magazines and newspapers. He promoted hang gliding in 1973 on To Tell the Truth, a TV-game show, as “The Real Mike Markowski.” On the outer sand banks of Cape Cod, he taught a 12-year-old boy and girl, and soaring pilot and author Richard “Old Dog” Wolters, to fly a hangglider in a 1975 segment titled “Fly Like a Bird,” which was part of a primetime TV series, Call It Macaroni.  A 1974 cover story in Scientific American featured Michael’s adventures in hang glider design and flying, leading to a contract to write The Hang Glider’s Bible (1977), his first book. His second book, The Encyclopedia of Homebuilt Aircraft (1979) solidified his focus on aviation writing and publishing.

Recognizing that aviation needs a boost, Michael is currently writing his memoirs, Wings of Dreams--How One Small Gift Can Inspire a Dream as BIG as the Sky. You can learn more about Michael at www.eaa.org/news/2007/2007-11-12_hof.asp#video and at www.aeronauticalpublishers.com (click on “About Us” to view To Tell the Truth as well as his EAA Hall of Fame acceptance speech).