Captain William Christian Nielsen
1922 – 2018
My father, William Christian Nielsen, found his life’s calling in aviation. Born in New York in 1922 to immigrant parents, his father, Christian Nielsen, earned his U.S. citizenship through joining the Army Air Corps Air Section in World War I.
After the war, my grandfather stayed interested in airplanes and automobiles, even allowing his kids (my dad and aunt) to get the taste for flying early in life.
When World War II broke out, my dad was working at Todd Shipyard in Brooklyn, but was still fascinated with airplanes and flying.
and so he applied for the Naval Aviation Cadet Training program
…at Chapel Hill, N.C.
He joined the war effort and after months of training, earned his wings in June 1943 at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station. Among others in his group was George H. W. Bush, who would eventually become the 41st President of the United States.
As a Marine aviator he was stationed many places, logging more than 2000 flight hours by the time he was only 22. He achieved the rank of Captain, and stayed in the reserves for many years after the war ended.
Here he is piloting an SNJ….in 1943
And here he is with his F4U Corsair, the coolest plane ever built!!
And of course Carrier Quals in the Corsair were just as fun!
When not flying, Marine Officers still had fun, shooting alligators and other trespassers on the runway as part of their Duty Officer routine.
Here he is during a visit back home,
pictured with his father and my namesake, Christian Nielsen.
After the war, my dad interviewed with numerous airlines, and received multiple job offers. He took the pilot job offered by famous World War I ace and entrepreneur Eddie Rickenbacker at his Eastern Air Lines company, flying for them for 36 years. In those early years at Eastern, they often were chartered to fly the president. Here he is while assigned as pilot for President Harry Truman.
He ended up completing his career flying for more than a decade as Captain on the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar jumbo, based out of JFK Airport, New York.
I got to go along on his retirement flight, special permission needed to fly with my dad, granted to me as a U.S. Navy pilot. Over his aviation career, he had amassed over 39,000 flight hours.
One of the proudest moments of my life was the day he pinned his World War II Naval Aviator wings on me at my “Navy winging ceremony.”
Two naval aviators together.
My Father passed on September 29th after 68 years of marriage to the love of his life.
A large piece of me died with my father’s passing. I honor and treasure his memory, and all he taught me.