Monroeville war hero's interest in flying took off at early age - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review World War II was nearing its end when Donald P. Coyle arrived in France. But his first few months of service there with the Army Air Corps earned him the distinction of being the youngest combat glider pilot in the war, his family said. And they were the start of a long career in aviation. Mr. Coyle was a military pilot until 1965, and he later flew corporate planes, taught student pilots and owned a small airport in Westmoreland County. Donald P. Coyle of Monroeville died Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008. He was 81. Flying was his passion, starting in childhood. "He built models of planes, and sometimes he would fly them off the garage roof and see how they flew," said daughter Colleen Coyle of Bozeman, Mont. Mr. Coyle grew up in Turtle Creek and attended St. Coleman School and Turtle Creek High School. He learned to fly at age 16 and worked at a bowling alley, a post office and the small Tomac Aviation Johnston Airport in Turtle Creek to pay for lessons. He bought a one-third interest in a plane before graduating from high school in 1944 and leaving for the military. Mr. Coyle volunteered to pilot gliders and spent the latter part of that year in training, graduating with the rank of flight officer. During the war, motorized aircraft towed gliders with troops and equipment inside to land behind enemy lines, and the pilot then became the infantry commander. "It was very dangerous, and many glider pilots didn't come back," Colleen Coyle said. Mr. Coyle earned a Battle Star for Central Europe for his service with the 94th Squadron, 439th Troop Carrier Group, she said, and an Army Air Corps certificate notes her father was World War II's youngest combat glider pilot. He was stationed at Chateaudun, France, and flew missions to Germany. He learned to fly multi-engine aircraft after the war, and he piloted heavy transport planes, including the C-133, to points around the world, his daughter said. The Air Corps eventually became the Air Force, and he was the personal pilot for the general who commanded the combined Army, Navy and other military forces in Alaska. After retiring as a major in 1965, Mr. Coyle piloted helicopters and planes for several corporations, including Beckwith Machinery Co., Mine Safety Appliance Co. and Rust Engineering Co. He ran the former Coyle Airport in West Newton from 1969-77, teaching flying and providing air taxi and crop dusting services. He was an instructor during the 1980s with aviation training company FlightSafety International in Texas and Florida. His last position was as a captain with Tempehof Airlines in Berlin, until 1995, and he flew and maintained his instructor's license until last year. Merle Gundlach of South Park worked with Mr. Coyle when he maintained aircraft for Rust Engineering. "We got along real good together. He was a nice fellow, and we used to have lunch almost every Thursday up until a couple months ago," he said. Bernie Young of Whitehall also joined the weekly lunches and remembers Mr. Coyle as "an excellent pilot and a fine gentleman." Mr. Coyle worked for Young, also a pilot, at Sunbeam Corp. "He loved flying, and he was into aviation all his life," Young said. Survivors include Mr. Coyle's wife, Sophia; children Donna McKay of Las Vegas, Erik Coyle of New York City, Suzy Dickinson of Las Vegas, Deanne Straka of Onamia, Minn., Colleen Coyle of Bozeman, Mont., and Donald Coyle Jr. of Tampa; a sister, Constance Riehle of Fort Pierce, Fla.; a brother, Harold Coyle of North Versailles; and nine grandchildren. He was preceded in death by siblings Francis and Edward Coyle, Grace Fowler and Catherine Couch. Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Jobe Funeral Home Inc., Shaw and Triboro avenues, Turtle Creek. Services will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and burial with full military honors will follow at Good Shepherd Cemetery. The family asks that memorials be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.