Charles Pollack was a pilot for Executive Fliteways, a Long Island...

Charles Pollack was a pilot for Executive Fliteways, a Long Island MacArthur Airport-based private charter company, as well as for United Airlines. Credit: Executive Fliteways

If it was fast and loud, Charlie Pollak was enamored by it -- and, wanted to ride it or drive it.

Old locomotive steam engines, cars, trucks, he loved them all, his sister Vivian Wyrick recalled last week.

"He was always kind of a boy's boy," she said. "Growing up, Charlie had hundreds of those old Matchbox cars. Cars, trucks, bulldozers. He was always playing with my father's tools, making all sorts of things with wood and nails. His room had all those navigation maps on the walls . . . His first car was an old blue convertible MG. He kept that thing around forever -- and he was always working on it out in the driveway."

A lifelong Long Islander who became an accomplished pilot, flying the rich and famous, flying dignitaries and notables all over the globe, Pollak, of Smithtown, died June 8 following a battle with cancer.

He was 59.

"Charlie was a terrific pilot whose love for the skies was apparent every time you boarded a plane he was flying," former secretary of state, senator and first lady Hillary Clinton said in a statement this week, adding: "He was full of an energy and optimism unique to people fortunate enough to love their job.

"He will be missed."

As a longtime private charter pilot for the Long Island MacArthur Airport-based Executive Fliteways Pollak often flew Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

Fliteways president James Prinzivalli said there wasn't a plane in the company fleet Pollak hadn't mastered -- and said the charter company sorely missed Pollak and his presence when he left for United Airlines in 2018.

At United, Pollak became a captain flying the Boeing 737 Max before he was diagnosed with cancer.

The stint was the second for Pollak at United, Prinzivalli and Wyrick said. Pollak first joined United as a young, professional pilot about two months before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Like many new hires in the fleet he was furloughed not long after the attacks -- rejoining Fliteways, where he had first worked as a pilot in 1990.

"It's a terrible loss," Prinzivalli said. "Charlie was one of a kind. Great personality, so outgoing. A guy you just wanted to be around."

Pollak was born May 18, 1965, and grew up in Patchogue, graduating from Patchogue-Medford High School and Dowling College, his sister said.

Honored at a celebration of life service June 13, he is survived by his wife, Adriana, and three children: Nico, Sianna and Mattix. 

Wyrick recalled how her brother was a devoted fisherman as a boy -- and how he loved anything mechanical. Their father, John, was an industrial arts teacher in the Patchogue school district, Wyrick said, and an avid model railroader. "I'm not talking one little track around the tree at Christmas," she said. "We had a diesel set, a passenger train set, all sorts of sets around the tree. . . . Charlie loved trains. He grew up loving big engines."

Wyrick said a family friend who had a pilot's license first taught her brother to fly in a small four-seater out of Republic Airport in East Farmingdale.

"He took Charlie under his wing, no pun intended," she said. "Before you knew it, he was accumulating a lot of hours as a private pilot."

Across the years, Pollak flew Beechcraft, Embraer, Hawker, Learjet and Gulfstream planes -- all the way up to Boeing 737s.

"You always felt safe with him," said Wyrick, who worked as a flight attendant for Fliteways, often on flights with her brother. "All those planes had different characteristics, but he mastered them all."

Over the years, Pollak didn't just fly notables like Hillary and Bill Clinton.

He also flew Roger Daltrey, frontman for The Who, and financier Martin Frankel, who later was convicted in a $200-million-plus investment scheme.

Pollak also flew Elian Gonzalez to Havana, following an international custody battle between the United States and Cuba after Gonzalez, then 5, was found by two fishermen floating in an inner tube three miles off Fort Lauderdale in 2000. When U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno determined Gonzalez would be returned to his divorced father in Cuba, Prinzivalli said it was Pollak on the flight to Havana -- to be greeted on the tarmac by Fidel Castro.

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