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Joseph Aguilera, retired TWA pilot, dies at 81

Joseph Aguilera in an undated photo provided by

Joseph Aguilera in an undated photo provided by his family.

Joseph Aguilera, an Army veteran and a pilot who toured the world as a captain for Trans World Airlines, died July 13 at his New Hyde Park home.

He was 81 and the cause of death was cardiac arrest, said daughter Ann Bay, of Brooklyn.

Aguilera, who with his wife, Germaine, raised five children, was born and raised in Manhattan.

He earned his pilot's license at age 16, before he received a driver's license.

"He was very proud of the fact that he was flying planes before he was driving a car," said son John Aguilera, of Jacksonville, Florida.

Fittingly, Bay said, her father was laid to rest in his TWA uniform.

"He had a zest for flying," she said. As a captain of Boeing 747 jumbo jets, Aguilera crisscrossed the world, landing in Paris, Israel and Egypt, and bringing home mementos such as maps for his children.

Aguilera was born on Dec. 8, 1932, to Frank and Maria Aguilera, and was one of five siblings. In his late teens, he embodied a competitive streak, family said, winning matches as a boxer.

The family said after World War II, Aguilera's father bought his son a surplus flight training plane, described as a BT-13 in a box. Aguilera assembled it with a friend and later piloted the plane.

Aguilera served in the Army from 1952 to 1953, Bay said. TWA hired him in the early 1960s. He started as a first officer in the Boeing 707, rose to captain 727s, and later an international pilot flying the Boeing 747, his family said.

John Aguilera said he also became a pilot, in the Navy, encouraged by his father's experiences. "Just hearing about him traveling the world and his experiences around the world really introduced us to so many cultures," he said.

The family moved to New Hyde Park in the early 1970s, close to the major New York airports, family said.

His children recalled their father's affinity for Long Island's parks and beaches. He took the family to Robert Moses State Park and was a fan of the tours at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, the home of former President Theodore Roosevelt.

In addition to his son and daughter, Aguilera also is survived by daughters Evelyn Cordisco, of Brooklyn, and Elizabeth Ford, of Cumberland, Rhode Island; son Joseph Aguilera; sisters Betty Volpe, of Stamford, Connecticut, and Carmen Macaluso, of Plainfield, New Jersey; and eight grandchildren.

Aguilera was buried in a military service July 17 at Calverton National Cemetery.

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