with sons Teddy and Beau
Some kids run a lemonade stand or walk dogs for a little extra cash. When Andrew Godbold was growing up, he washed airplanes. Years before he could drive, Godbold was surrounded by the aviation community and would wash planes for extra money, or more often a ride.
On his 14th birthday, he was gifted a ride in a World War II trainer called a T-6 Texan, and for the first time, got to experience aerobatic flying. If he wasn’t hooked already, the loops and rolls in that historic plane sure did the trick. At 16, the same age he joined the Moccasin Flying Club, he made his first solo at Chattanooga’s Lovell Field. He earned his license the following year after his high school English professor allowed him to reschedule an exam so he could take his checkride on December 17th – the 99th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight.
Several years later while studying business in college, Godbold enrolled in an aeronautical engineering course alongside one of his friends.
“A big part of why we took the class was just to get to know the professor, who is one of the best aerobatic pilots I’ve ever met,” explains Godbold. “It sure did pay off because he, along with some other people, loaned me airplanes I could only dream of owning. Because of their generosity, I was able to fly in aerobatic competitions in seven states as well as with members of the U.S. Aerobatic Team.”
The next several years blessed Godbold with some of the most incredible aviation experiences of his life. He soloed his favorite airplane (an open-cockpit Stearman biplane), flew a seaplane to the edges of the Arctic Circle, and even had the opportunity to fly small planes around the castles and sunflower fields of Tuscany while studying abroad in Italy.
While having those experiences is still incredibly important to Godbold, in this season of his life, aviation is all about giving back to others. “Flying is all about relationships. Aviators are a passionate group, and it’s hard to find a stranger at an airport if you share that passion,” says Godbold. “I truly hate to fly a plane with an empty seat. If it’s empty, it’s only because I don’t give people enough lead time to join.”
But if friends and family are not available for a quick trip, you better believe that Godbold isn’t alone. Now, a major goal for Godbold is to provide his two young sons with similar experiences and help broaden their horizons.
“Having access to an airplane also comes with a lot of responsibility. My boys have spent countless evenings scrubbing bugs and oil residue off the airplane. It’s truly a family affair,” says Godbold. “It’s fun to watch the boys since that’s how I got my start in aviation. I’m really pleased with how they take pride and earnestly want to be of assistance. Plus they think it’s fun to slide around on a ‘creeper,’ and they can reach the spots that are hard for the rest of us!”
Godbold’s family and friends aren’t the only people who benefit from his love of aviation, however. Godbold is also a pilot with Challenge Air and has flown dozens of children with special needs as “co-pilots,” and with Angel Flights he has flown cancer patients, transplant patients, and others (one with a broken neck) to medical centers across the Southeast.
“Fortunately, there is a large network of pilots who donate their time and aircraft to help others. Aside from seeing family, these are the most rewarding flights I have taken part in.”