At 92, retired Abilene physician Jack Ramsey takes off for the wild blue

The doctor was in Friday.

In the air.

For the last time as a solo pilot − maybe − longtime Abilene physician Jack Ramsey took the seat in his Beech Bonanza, tail number N6299X.

It was his birthday. Now 92, it's time, as someone later joked, to hand over the keys.

"It's been a good ride," he said, pausing during his preflight check.

Ramsey was upbeat. After all, he was ready to take off.

"I haven't flown in three days," he said.

But one more thing before he goes, he said, turning toward the Abilene Aero building.

Did he need to go ... to the restroom?

No. He needed coffee.

"A tiny bit," Ramsey said, smiling under a full head of white hair. "Hate to go to sleep up there."

Taking her out for a spin

As soon he was in the cockpit, Ramsey fired up the one propeller he needed, checked his instruments, closed the side window and then maneuvered his white plane with blue-and-gray detailing to the end of the runway, 17R, at Abilene Regional Airport.

He got the OK from the tower, sped south just above the runway − maybe for effect for his fans gathered to see him off − and then into infinity and beyond.

Or, what we call the wild blue West Texas yonder.

Before he took off, Ramsey had logged 9,846.4 pilot hours in the air, his niece Jackie Cox told me.

He added another 20 or so minutes, flying east to Callahan County before returning to what he calls his favorite airport.

There are 8,760 hours in a year, meaning Ramsey has spent more than one year of his life steering through the sky.

Don't you know he's tempted to round off those hours at 10,000.

"It never gets old," said Ramsey, who got his pilot's license in 1961 while in the Air Force.

No, he didn't fly for America. But it was in his blood.

M.T. Ramsey, an uncle, was one of the founders of Kinsolving Field, which preceded the current airport here.

Is every doctor a pilot?

If you needed a doctor Thursday morning, well, good luck.

Ramsey left several physicians, some retired and others still practicing, on the tarmac. Funny how they tell you to take care of yourself, then take to the skies and fly over patients thousands of feet below them.

But maybe a little derring-do and alone time is just what the doctor orders for stress relief.

Dr. Gary Goodnight was there, looking fresh.

The Abilene-Taylor County Public Health District medical authority already had been to the gym.

He's a pilot, too.

"Between medicine and flying, he's been my mentor," Goodnight said of Ramsey.

He pulled out his phone to show photos of fireworks, taken from his plane the evening of July 4 over Abilene Country Club.

Dr. Johnny Bliznak, who is retired, was there, too, to celebrate the day.

Bliznak has flown many times with Ramsey, and he noted how careful his friend and colleague is in his preparation.

He recalled a flight to the Midwest and encountering foul weather. Though Ramsey was instrument rated, he chose to land the plane, rent a car and drive back to Texas.

On Thursday, Ramsey joked that it's better to be on the ground and wish you were flying than to be flying and wish you were on the ground.

Bliznak's late wife, Carol, enjoyed flying with the boys, but preferred Ramsey at the controls.

He laughed remembering getting his "tickets" for commercial and instrument flight and wanting to fly her to Austin.

But, she said, you don't have experience. Like Jack.

He convinced her to go, but wouldn't you know it, a red light blinked on during the flight, and she was concerned. He assured her they were OK and he'd have it checked out before they flew home.

The trip went safely, but she never flew with him again, he said, laughing.

The sky's no limit

Maybe Carol Bliznak flew instead with Joy Ramsey.

Ramsey's late wife was a pilot. I overheard Thursday that she once flew to the Bahamas and back.

These kinds of stories were swapped Thursday.

These guys − and gals − love flying.

Leaving the ground and looking down on all the people, cars, city and country is refreshing, Ramsey said after his flight.

"Up there, you are essentially by yourself," he said.

Flying above the parched landscape of the Abilene area, however, pales in comparison to some of the places he has flown over.

Abilene is nothing like the Cayman Islands. Or Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands or the Bahamas. Or even elsewhere in the United States. Ramsey through the years flew to all four corners of the continent. Up there, you are essentially by yourself.

"Flying through the Rocky Mountains is spectacular," he said.

He's flown in Canada and Mexico, too.

Over the years, he has done that in a variety of planes, including four types of Pipers − Cherokee, Apache, Aztec and Navajo. He has flown two types of Bonanzas (B35, B36) and the Beechcraft Baron.

And three types of Cessnas − the C 150, C 152 and C 210.

He is certified as a flight instructor for teaching instrument and single- and multi-engine aircraft.

So no one was worried about him going up by himself Thursday.

In fact, most were wishing he was taking passengers.

Jackie Cox, Dr. Jack Ramsey's niece, in a glider.
Jackie Cox, Dr. Jack Ramsey's niece, in a glider.

Pretty good doc, too

As a physician, Ramsey has been held in high esteem.

In 2018, he was presented the Gold Headed Cane Award, which is not given lightly, and not awarded every year. The honor from the Big Country County Medical Association goes to a physician with a long record of service, both to patients and community. Bliznak was chosen in 2021.

More: Dr. Jack Ramsey honored with award

Ramsey was board certified in diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine and radiation oncology, Cox told me. In the Air Force, he chaired the radiology department at Lockbourne AFB in Columbus, Ohio, from 1960 to 1962.

He is a 1947 graduate of Abilene High and graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

Ramsey’s father, W.V. Ramsey Sr., a surgeon with specialized training in radiology, founded Radiology Associates here. Jack Ramsey and Joy, whom he married in 1955, returned to Abilene in 1962 and he joined the practice.

His brother, Wayne Jr., had told him that if he was going to work here, he needed to fly. Over the years, Jack Ramsey many times flew to area towns for business.

More: Jack Ramsey is the Wright choice

A day in the life

No one knew Ramsey had arrived Thursday at Abilene Aero.

But suddenly, there he was, looking over his plane. He had ridden his maroon Harley-Davidson to the airport and parked it, his jacket hung on the handlebar and his helmet on the seat.

Ramsey's flight was to begin at 8 a.m. but he departed almost 10 minutes early.

These 92-year-olds, can't keep up with them.

At 8:18 a.m., it was announced that Ramsey was headed back from his flight east to Callahan County.

While he was away, two airport fire trucks, one numbered R2 and the other − I know what you're thinking − R1, were positioned. When Ramsey taxied in, each showered him with spray. It was the most "rainfall" measured at the airport in months.

Ramsey swung out of his seat to applause, smiling his Hollywood smile and waving. Maverick in the movie "Top Gun" has nothing on this guy.

"You guys!" he said, seeing the crowd of fans that included family and Kitty Thomas, his "lady friend," I was told.

He was hugged first by Bliznak, then kissed by KItty Thomas, his significant other.

Ramsey was asked if he had "buzzed" the control tower. I didn't hear his answer above the laughter, so who knows.

The pilot recounted flying with Gen. Chuck Yeager, who told him it was a good day of flying when you could walk away from the plane and a better day if you could fly it the next day.

"Means you didn't bend it," Ramsey said.

Maybe the best day is when you get a free plane wash.

In a joking mood, Ramsey said what he wished he could do is "put himself in a dryer for 10 minutes and come out wrinkle-free and 20 pounds lighter."

And, "I noticed people my age are a lot older than me," he said.

"Anyway, thank you guys for being here," he said.

Someone commented it would be no surprise if Ramsey sneaked in another flight.

Jack Ramsey himself seemed to affirm that. Thursday, he said, was his first flight being 92.

He doesn't seem to be one to ride his Harley off into the sunset.

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Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to

This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Retired Abilene physician Jack Ramsey, 92, makes final solo flight