Bill Fili – Lost to us

Bill Fili (photo: Richard Gaw, CCP)

We are saddened to report the passing of long time Chapter member, celebrated aviator, author and really nice guy, Bill Fili. Bill passed away last evening, at the age of 95, a loss to all who knew or encountered him.

Around the Chapter Bill will be known for his friendly disposition, his handshakes, his regular attendance at Chapter events and his willingness to share his aviation experiences with all.

Bill’s is a remarkable story, of a life well-lived. At eighteen years old Bill enlisted in the Army Air Corps and began his training as an airplane mechanic-gunner that destined him to be a flight engineer on a B-24 Liberator Bomber. He flew 34 combat missions in those fiery skies over Europe before being shot down over the Ploesti oil refineries in Romania. Suddenly he found himself in a prisoner of war camp. Bill survived and after the war Bill stayed in the Air Force Reserves, and was recalled during the Korean War as a flight engineer on a Boeing C-97 Stratocruiser and aerial tanker. On discharge he became a commercial pilot and flight instructor. He founded a manufacturing business, Filcon Corporation, and after twenty-five years he sold it and went into semi-retirement. Bored with idleness, he kept busy for the next sixteen years driving a school bus.

Arriving at his eightieth birthday, he decided it was time to do things for himself. He soloed in a brand new Skyhawk 172 and became an instant UFO, an acronym for “United Flying Octogenarian”. His life’s final chapter is in his book and video titled “Passage to Valhalla II”, as well as in the public speaking he undertook.

Bill authored several books, the most famous being “Passage to Valhalla: The Human Side of Aerial Combat”. Bill presented many Chapter members with copies of his book, which can also be found in the Chapter library. His model of the B-29 he crewed was donated and is on display at the New Garden FBO, along with other artifacts, and is included in the photograph above.

At this sad time, our thoughts are with Bill’s family and his extensive group of friends.

As we learn of the final arrangements for Bill we’ll pass those along. Read more about Bill ‘in his own words’ here.