Kanaley had storied career as pilot

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tom Kanaley stands beside a signed photograph of an airplane he flew.

Tom Kanaley stands beside a signed photograph of an airplane he flew.

Gantt’s Tom Kanaley has literally soared through life.

The retired pilot spent some 60 years in the air as a Marine Corps. pilot, commercial airline pilot, and flight instructor before retiring earlier this year.

His career as a pilot began when he joined the Marine Corps., and went to flight training school in Pensacola.

“I got my wings and flew with the Marines for 10 years,” he said.

During his tenure in the Marine Corps., he spent time in Pensacola, North Carolina and California.

He also served more than a year in Vietnam.

Delta Airlines hired him as a pilot in 1966.

Kanaley’s first assignment was in Houston with Delta.

“We lived there for eight years,” he said.

In the summer of 1975, he got assigned to New Orleans.

Kanaley and his wife, Mary, decided to move to Covington County – on the Florala Highway – to rear their children.

“Beth was in the eighth grade, Tommy in the fourth and Valerie was in preschool,” he said.

He commuted to The Big Easy for five years before getting transferred to Atlanta to Hartsfied-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Kanaley said he had the opportunity throughout his career as a pilot to fly domestic flights, some to South America and the Caribbean, Europe, and to the Far East to places such as Japan, Korea, and Bankok.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kanaley was a training instructor.

“I flew a month on the line and then a month as an instructor,” he said. “Then, they actually did real flying.”

Now, pilots are trained on flight simulators.

He retired from Delta Airlines in 1997, but said he immediately went to work for Delta Global Services as a flight instructor teaching young pilots to fly.

Kanaley said at the start of the Gulf War, he ferried American military forces from Frankfurt, Germany, to King Fahd International Airport in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, as part of the Civilian Reserve Air Force.

During his tenure, he flew Boeing 767, Compadre 80s, Lockheed L-1011s and the F-4.

Toward the end of Kanaley’s career, Mary said she was able to fly internationally.

Some of her favorite stops were Hong Kong and Seoul.

“It was fun,” she said. “Got to enjoy it. He’s had quite the career. He got to do what he enjoyed.”

He retired earlier this year.