Bernard “Benny” Whelan graduated from St. Mary’s Institute in 1908. Then he began a career in business in the Sales Department of the National Cash Register Company. In 1910, he made his dreams come true and became one of the original 119 pilots trained by Orville and Wilbur Wright at Huffman Field. He became a licensed pilot in 1913, the 247th license ever issued. He served as a civilian flight instructor for the federal government before he established and operated a company that purchased and sold aircraft and also carried passengers.
Colonel E. A. Deeds requested Whelan become a test pilot for Pratt and Whitney. Whelan also served as Col. Deeds’ personal pilot. Whelan later became General Manager of Vought-Sikorsky, a division of United Aircraft, until he retired in 1958.
Among his other accomplishments he was a key player in the development and use of helicopters. Whelan was also the president of the Early Birds, an organization of pilots who soloed in the first thirteen years of powered flight.