Michael Lawrence Pannone
July 16th, 1933 – June 10th, 2021
Mike Pannone, longtime Alaskan and well-known aviation pioneer, passed away June 10 at his home at Wolf Lake Airport in Wasilla.
Mike was born July 16, 1933, in Utica, New York, to Dominick and Joan (Miraglia-Talarico) Pannone. He graduated from Proctor High School in 1951 and earned degrees in Air Traffic Control and Professional Piloting from Anchorage Community College in 1973 and 1978, a Bachelor of Technology degree in Air Traffic Control and Education from the University of Alaska in 1985, and a Master of Aeronautical Science Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 1992.
Mr. Pannone served in the United States Marine Corps/Marine Corps Reserve from 1953 to 1968 and received an Honorable Discharge. In 1954, he married Arlene Klepadlo, who was the mother of his four children. While in the Marines, he served as a Staff Sergeant, Infantry, Small Arms Instructor, and Air Traffic Controller.
He drove the Alaska Highway with his wife and children in November 1965, arriving in Anchorage on an evening when it was -20 degrees. He initially worked at Merrill Field controlling airplanes and supplementing his income plowing the runway during the night. In later years, he worked at the Anchorage International Airport control tower and the Radar Approach Control on Elmendorf Air Force Base.
Mr. Pannone was the owner of Aero Forensics Alaska LLC, an independent consulting group operating in the fields of Aviation Safety, Aviation Education, Air Traffic Control Systems, and Accident Investigation. He retired in 2009 as Contract Site Supervisor for the Raytheon Corporation in its contract to train Air Traffic Controllers at the Anchorage Air Route Traffic Control Center. In that role he was responsible for contract training of air traffic controllers in one enroute center, two approach control facilities, and three control towers.
Mr. Pannone previously served as Director of Programs at the Medallion Foundation, dedicated to Aviation Safety in Alaska. As Director of Programs, he was responsible for the activities of six-star programs and the operation of the Tom Wardleigh Training Center for simulator activities. He authored the Medallion Flyers program.
Professionally, Mr. Pannone had been active in the field of Aviation for more than sixty-two years. He was a retired FAA Supervisory Air Traffic Controller. He authored and served as Chair of the Air Traffic Control Program of the University of Alaska and held the rank of Professor until his retirement in 1997. During the summer of 1990 he led an exchange program with the (then) Soviet Union and acted as Guest Professor at the Kiev (Ukraine) Institute for Aviation Engineers. In his role at the University, Professor Pannone was the recipient of several awards for education excellence, including the FAA Champion Educator Award, and was personally cited by the Alaska State Legislature for outstanding service in the field of Aviation Education.
Mr. Pannone operated as a pilot in Alaska and Western Canada for more than fifty years. He held commercial privileges in single and multi-engine aircraft, land and sea, and was instrument-rated. During the Exxon Valdez disaster he piloted numerous missions into the Prince William Sound area as part of the rescue effort. Among others, he was cited for his effort by the Alaska State Legislature. In 1991, he led the first ever fly-in of thirty-five general aviation aircraft from Nome, across the Bering Strait to Providenia, Russia. In 2018 he was a recipient of the FAA Master Pilot Award. He was a support pilot for several Iditarod dog sled races.
As a thirty-seven-year member of Civil Air Patrol, Colonel Pannone served as Commander of the Alaska Wing and, subsequently, the only Alaskan to serve as Commander of the six-state Pacific Region. He was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
His civic duties have included service on the Anchorage Municipal Airport Commission; Matanuska-Susitna Borough Aviation Advisory Board; Member of the Board of Directors, Alaska Aviation Museum; FAA Aircraft Accident Prevention Counselor; President and member of the Board for the Alaska Airmen’s Association; Lecturer and member of the Board for the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation; President and member of the Board for the Anchorage Suicide Prevention and Crises Center; Volunteer for the Woman’s Resource Center; Volunteer on the Anchorage Fire Department.
He is survived by brothers Richard (Schenectady NY) and David (Sayre PA); children Charles (Cindi), Cathy (Bob) Fisher, Steve (Jan), Mike (Cathy); grandchildren Dominick (Karen), Christopher, Michael (Kaleigh), Jessica; and great-grandchildren Liliana, Julian, and Mateo; along with many cousins, nieces, and nephews around the United States. He also leaves behind many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues in the global aviation community.
A viewing and Catholic Mass will be held Tuesday, June 22, at 11:30 AM at St. Patrick’s Parish on Muldoon Road, followed by a private burial service limited by invitation to family and close friends at the Fort Richardson National Cemetery. Mr. Pannone will be honored at a celebration of life at the Alaska Aviation Museum Wednesday, June 23 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, with an open invitation to all those who knew Mike over his many years in Alaska.