Thomas Fitzpatrick was born on April 24, 1930 in New York City, New York.
He joined the Marines, while underage, and fought in World War II. In 1949, he joined the Army and fought in the Korean War.
Thomas was injured during a rescue mission, but aided in providing a second rescue team to save a wounded officer. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart.
The Silver Heart is awarded for combat valor and the Purple Heart is given to those injured by the enemy in combat.
In 1952, Thomas left the Army and moved Emerson, New Jersey where he became a steam fitter and airplane mechanic.
He worked hard and liked to drink late in the night (and early morning), often in Manhattan.
On September 29, 1956, Thomas was at a bar called Joe’s for a bachelor party. He was heavily intoxicated when he was bet that he couldn’t get from New Jersey to NYC in 15 minutes.
That was all Thomas needed. He left the bar. Just before 3am, a Cessna 140 landed on St. Nicholas Avenue and taxied to the front door of Joe’s.
Thomas jumped out and ran into the bar. He needed one last beer before last call.
He told responding police that he had borrowed the plane because he “had an urge to fly.” He was arrested, but the owner of the plane, impressed with Thomas, declined to press charges.
The police called Thomas’s flight “almost impossible” and a “feat of aeronautics.” He was charged with grand larceny and violation of city code for landing an airplane on a New York City street.
Thomas was fined $100 (just shy of $1000 today) and his pilot’s license was suspended for 6 months.
After enjoying his 15 minutes of fame, Thomas fell into a normal life and married in 1958.
Later that year, Thomas was in another bar in Manhattan bragging about that “feat of aeronautics” when another patron called his bluff.
Thomas left the bar and returned a short time later in a stolen Cessna 120 which he parked in the middle of Amsterdam street at 187th. He got out and ran back to the bar.
Police were called and they pushed the plane out of the road. They knew exactly who had done this. They called Thomas in for questioning.
He was charged with larceny, code violations and Civil Aeronautics regulations violations. This time his bail was set at $10,000 (more than $90,000 today).
He pled guilty to a misdemeanor for crossing state lines with stolen property and served 6 months in prison.
After this release, he went on to father 3 children. Thomas died on September 14, 2009 from cancer. He was 79 years old.
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