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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Retired Air Force, Air Guard and FedEx pilot loves cycling and shows no signs of slowing down

Retired Air Force, Air Guard and FedEx pilot loves cycling and shows no signs of slowing down
By:  Michael Lander

Billy Privette has been fully retired for over a
decade now, but that hasn't slowed him down
any.  He is active and enjoys riding his bicycle
five days or more each week.  He believes
that it, and a healthy diet, have kept him in
good health and in good shape.

Seventy-two-year-old Billy Privette may be retired, but he isn’t ready to ride off into the sunset, unless he just happens to be doing that on his bicycle.

Privette is an avid cyclist and has been throughout most of his life.  From his childhood through most of his days now, he still rides as much and as often as he can.

“I have ridden bicycles all my life, more intensely over the last 30 years in order to keep in shape and to save my knees from other activities like running,” Privette said.

Because he frequently traveled around the world, he has had the opportunity to ride a bike in most of the places that he spent any time in.

“I regularly rode in Narita, Japan, Anchorage, Alaska, Los Angeles, Calf., San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in Memphis,” Privette said.

Before he retired, Privette served his country as a pilot in the military and then for Federal Express.

“I was active duty military for seven years and three months and flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam, missile support in Grand Forks, rescue in Goose Bay Labrador, and C-141A aircraft out of Charleston AFB, S.C.,” Privette said.

Privette lives near the Wolf River Greenway
and is a frequent visitor to the trails, which
he thinks is one of the best quality of life
improvements that the Memphis Metro
area has has experienced in recent years.
“I was also assigned to Columbus AFB, Miss. to train as a T-38 instructor when I decided to resign my commission and fly for Federal Express instead.  I later joined the Tennessee Air National Guard where I spent 15 years and retired as a Lt. Col. in the 164th Combat Support Squadron,” Privette added.

“At Federal Express, I flew the Falcon (DA-20), B-727, and DC-10 and I flew for 30 years at
FedEx in all crew positions.  I retired from there on December 31, 2002,” Privette said.

These days, Privette is enjoying retirement, and time with his friends and family, and getting all the time that he wants to ride one of two bikes that he owns, both of which were made in the 1980’s.  He has a
Bianca, which is an Italian racer and the other is a Japanese-made Centurion.

“I normally ride four or five days a week for 10 miles or more either solo or with some friends.  Bicycles are a great way to get exercise and to see the terrain at the same time.  I also use them for quick trips to the store,” Privette said.

Privette, like many other Memphians, enjoys
the beautiful scenery that can be found on
the ever-burgeoning bike trails in and
around the city of Memphis.

When he does ride with others, it is often with his friends like those he knew from FedEx and those he worked with at the Tennessee Air National Guard, which include retired Brig. Gen. Rita Works and retired Col. Gary Jewell.

Privette especially loves the
bicycle trails that Memphis and surrounding areas now have.

“The trails have been a fantastic quality of life improvement to the Memphis area and they can help promote a healthy lifestyle for everyone of all ages.  In the future, I look forward to crossing the
Wolf River, the Mississippi River, riding the "Trail of Tears," and returning to my home in East Memphis,” Privette said.

In addition to riding for his own health and the simple pleasure of it, Privette also likes to ride and occasionally run for charitable causes that are near and dear to him.

“I enjoyed the
St. Jude Bike Ride last year since it is one of my two favorite charities.  The other one is the Church Health Center.  I was the team captain at the St. Jude ride for a team, which I named the ‘Gray Falcons.’  I rode my first century (100 mile) ride during this 24-hour event and my three-man team raised $4,625.00.  I have already registered for the 2015 ride and I am really looking forward to doing it again in late October,” Privette said.

Privette (in the center) posed with his former
military colleagues in the 2013 Meritan
Midnight Classic Bike Tour.  Col. (Ret.)
Gary Jewell is on the left and Brig. Gen.
(Ret.) Rita Works is on the right.

In many ways, it is remarkable that Privette is even riding at all.  He was sidelined in 2010 when he experienced a potentially catastrophic and life-altering bicycle accident.

“I had a collision about five years ago that put me in the Med for two days.  I suffered a concussion, amnesia, six broken ribs, a broken shoulder, a broken jaw, and I received 23 stitches above my left eye.  My balance was off for six months from dislocation of the otoliths in my inner ear.  I got back on the bicycle in about a month and have been riding ever since,” Privette said.

Even though some people may have given up cycling after such a traumatic incident as he had, neither that nor retirement has slowed him down any. 

Privette has remained fit, thin, and in very good shape and he attributes that to a healthy diet and an active lifestyle, which, for him will always include a bicycle. 


  1. He also, plays a mean game of Bridge. Go Billy

  2. good job Billy, as soon as I get my motor on my bike repaired, I will join you.

    1. It should be known that Billy is a "Silver Star " recipient for bravery and gallantry in a Viet Nam rescue mission with his "Huey"...I am proud to have known this man and roomed with him when he flew missile support in Grand Forks, N.D.