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Interview conducted as part of the Nash County Cultural Center’s Oral History Project. Abernethy discusses his lifelong fascination of aviation. His childhood was spent playing in a cardboard cockpit pretending to be a pilot in WWII battles. He talks about attending Nashville Elementary School and Nashville High School, where he played football but struggled academically. He discusses how his father enrolled him at Oak Ridge Military Institute, and how the structured environment helped him excel in his studies. A lack of structure led to more academic struggles at UNC-Chapel Hill, ECU and Mount Olive Junior College. in 1966, he enrolled at the Burnside-Ott Aviation Training Center in Miami, where he worked cleaning windshields of planes on the flight line to pay his tuition. He went on to attend Miami-Dade Junior College, which offered aviation and aerospace technology courses. While there, Abernethy apprenticed to be an airframe and power plant mechanic, became a member of the Sigma Alpha Tau national honor aerospace fraternity, and earned a degree in airline & airport management. He reflects on his time working as a pilot for Air America, flying DC-3 and C-130 aircraft to South America, Central America, and occasionally Southeast Asia. He also remembers flying for a Miami-based real estate firm, Ecuatoriana Airlines, and various corporate flying jobs. He describes not being able to gain employment from domestic airlines due to a scleroderma diagnosis. He speaks about learning photography, briefly owning a camera store in Nashville, NC before taking a job as a fixed-operator at the Wilson Municipal Airport.

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