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The Story of Sabatino “Sabbie” Ludovici
1910 - 2001

On October 23rd, 2004, Sabatino “Sabbie” Ludovici was inducted into the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame “in recognition of his trail-blazing efforts as an aviation pioneer, and his outstanding contributions to the development of general aviation.”

At the same time, Donald L. Carcieri, Governor of the State of Rhode Island recognized Sabbie’s “lifelong contributions to aviation spanning more than 60 years as a pilot, during which he amassed more than 45,000 flying hours.”

Born in Aguila, Italy, Sabbie emigrated to America with his family when he was three. At the age of 16 he ran across an ad for a flight school in Kansas City, Missouri in a copy of Mechanic’s Illustrated magazine and although he’d never seen an actual airplane close up, he decided he would learn to fly. Inspired by the example of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, Sabbie was off to Missouri. He began his training in a Standard J-1 biplane in an era when airplanes had no radios and compasses were rare. He learned to navigate by pilotage, using a road atlas for a map, and by the following year (1927) had earned his pilot’s license.

Sabbie (inset) and one of the airplanes he flew.

In 1930, he married the love of his life: Louise Taylor, and started L&M Flying Service in Woonsocket with Joel Meynard. They traveled to New York and bought a rebuilt Waco-10 biplane with room for three passengers and an open cockpit. The airplane had a new OX-5 engine which came out of a Curtiss Jenny, the first airplane Lindbergh had owned.

In the early 30s, and for some time thereafter, job offers came to him from the major airlines: Eastern, United, Northeastern, and others, but Sabbie — preferring his home life and dedicated to general aviation — turned them all down. In 1932, he built his own airport in Smithfield, RI, clearing the landing strip of stones and building the hangar himself, and in 1935 Sabbie's Flying Service moved to Mendon, MA where he founded Skylanes.


Sabbie’s Flying Service, Mendon Field, ca. 1935

By 1938, the service had three airplanes: a Piper Cub, a Taylorcraft, and the original Waco, but the hurricane of ’38 did a lot of damage. The three were repaired and two more Taylorcrafts were added to the fleet. Eventually, Skylanes moved to North Central State airport.

Sabbie was a flight instructor for the Navy during World War II, teaching aerobatics to groups of 5 students at a time in eight week rotations.

In 1969 at Skylanes, his was the first-ever FAA-approved aerobatics instruction program in the United States and it remained so for years. He was an FAA pilot examiner for 32 years and was a recipient of the Rhode Island Pilots Association’s Airman of the Year Award in 1988.

By the age of 78, Sabbie had flown more than 45,000 hours and had taught thousands of people how to fly, including his wife Louise. Many pilots still flying today took their flight instruction from Sabbie, and he is legendary among them for his love of flying, his wisdom, and his sense of humor.


Sabatino “Sabbie” Ludovici, at North
Central State airport in 1988.





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