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Former Thunderbirds pilot and Leo High School graduate returns home for Fort Wayne Air Show

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) – A former Thunderbirds pilot and Leo High School graduate returned home to watch the Fort Wayne Air Show.

Art Ivins, a graduate from Leo High School, enlisted into an aviation cadet program in 1957. Ivins said he started off as a cook, but graduated three years later and became a pilot. Ivins said it was his dream to fly in the sky above the clouds.

“That first time you get up in an airplane by yourself and you say oh my gosh, I’m doing this,” Ivins said. “I’m really doing this.”

However, Ivins didn’t stop there. Ivins later applied to become a Thunderbirds pilot, but was denied twice.

“I made up my mind as a country boy, I got a little spunk,” Ivins said. “You may beat me up. You may wash me out, but you’re not going to make me quit.”

Ivins didn’t give up and applied again. After his third try, Ivins was accepted into the group and became a Thunderbirds pilot.

“I don’t think there was a happier person in the whole world,” Ivins said. “Little did I know the hard work was just beginning.”

Ivins said hard work and discipline are two important traits that pilots must have. He said he credits his Allen County roots that allowed him to achieve his dream.

“Life is serendipity. Take a job at McDonalds,” Ivins said. “You may get hired. Next thing you may know, you may be the CEO of Apple,” Ivins said. “Don’t quit.”

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Louie Tran

Louie Tran is the weekend anchor for Fort Wayne’s NBC at 6 and 11pm and a weekday general assignment reporter. To share story ideas, please email him at

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