The Times West Virginian

May 7, 2014

Spending 50 years up in the clouds

By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — From commercial to private planes, pilot Larry Ferren has spent 50 years navigating through the clouds.

“It’s just a way of life for me,” he said.

Ferren, who resides in Shinnston, celebrated his 50th year as a pilot this month. His family and friends had a celebration for him a few weeks ago.

In 1947, at the age of 6, Ferren took his first ride in an airplane and fell in love with flying.

“That first ride made me know what I needed to do,” Ferren said.

At the age of 23, the Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, native flew by himself for the first time in 1964 after getting his pilot’s license. He then started his pilot career as a flight instructor, teaching others how to navigate an airplane.

When Ferren moved to West Virginia, he worked for Airmac Aviation Service in Clarksburg as a flight instructor and carter pilot.

Moving to New York, Ferren was hired by Chautauqua Airlines as a captain and flew for the company for about three years.

“I couldn’t stand the cold weather living in New York,” he said.

Getting away from the cold, Ferren moved to Kentucky, where he worked as a corporate pilot for Modern Welding. After a few years, the owner passed away and the operation was shut down. Ferren then took a job with Kentucky Airlines as a pilot.

“They went bankrupt a few years later and I moved back to West Virginia,” he said. “I was hired as a captain in Parkersburg for Crown Airways.”

Ferren worked for Crown Airways for a total of 11 years. He retired in 2001.

“I went back to doing a little bit of flight instructing at Fairmont,” Ferren said.

Today, Ferren flies his own aircraft for fun. But through his time as a pilot, Ferren has remembered a lot of his passengers over the years.

“I have met thousands of people and have made thousands of friends throughout the country,” he said.

Among the passengers Ferren has flown have been celebrities including Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Retton.

“Mary Lou Retton is a sweet little girl with a beautiful smile,” Ferren said.

He’s had bands such as the Charlie Daniels Band on his plane, and even politicians.

“I’ve flown U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller,” Ferren said.

Ferren said although he has flown to several states and countries, his favorite place to fly to is Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He flies there every year for the world’s biggest airshow, EAA AirVenture.

“I’ll be going up there in July this year,” he said.

Because flying is such a huge part of Ferren’s life, it’s no surprise that his family also enjoys the bird’s-eye view of the world. His daughter Jennifer said she took her first ride in an airplane when she was 3 years old.

“Flying came as naturally to us as breathing,” she said. “I’ve had a lifetime of flying.”

Jennifer said her father loved flying, and being able to work as a pilot was his dream.

“It was his passion, so it never seemed like work to him,” she said.

Ferren’s son Larry Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a pilot himself. Ferren was his flight instructor for several years before he earned his pilot’s license.

“My dad actually gave him his private pilot’s license,” Jennifer said.

For Ferren, being in the air is a way of life, and his favorite thing about flying is seeing the sun set and rise over the horizon.

“I really enjoy the view up there,” Ferren said.

Email Emily Gallagher at or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.