Robert “Bob” Duncan was born in Philadelphia in June 1945. He became a Hoosier when his family moved to Indianapolis in his high school years.
Bob– who wasn’t thrilled about the family move–came to flying through his fascination with airplanes from an early age. His father, knowing of Bob’s aviation fascination, promised that he could learn to fly if he didn’t complain about the move. Bob accepted the offer and soloed at age 16 at the old Indianapolis Sky Harbor Airport, launching a 62-year career as a pilot and notable aviation figure.
Following graduation from Hanover College in 1967, Bob entered law school at Indiana University. He kept up his flying during school by flight instructing during the day and attending night classes.
While in law school, Bob took a semester sabbatical and joined the Army Reserve. He completed basic training at Ft. Benning, then was assigned to Ft. Rucker in Alabama for 8 weeks of aircraft repairman training on the DeHavilland Beaver and Cessna O-1 Bird Dog aircraft.
Following his graduation from the I.U. McKinney School of Law in 1971, Bob was recruited by future Indiana Aviation Hall of Fame Member Daniel Orcutt, in February 1973 to serve as legal counsel with the Indianapolis Airport Authority. During his 38-year career with the Airport Authority Bob was Executive Director, General Counsel and Special Advisor to the CEO, handling many legal and managerial duties including acquiring land for the expansion of the Indianapolis International Airport and handling the real estate matters associated with the airport’s noise mitigation program. In that work, Bob oversaw the purchase of over $250 million dollars of land for the development of Indianapolis International Airport as well as the Authority’s five Indianapolis-area reliever airports, and the relocation of over 1,000 families. He was also instrumental in the development and completion of the award-winning Indianapolis Airport terminal and grounds.
Besides his work at the Airport Authority, Bob was active in the development and promotion of airports all over Indiana, serving as a board member and director of Airport Indiana. He would utilize both skills while working with the Indiana legislature as a key contributor and author of several Indiana statutes relating to zoning, airport boards, aircraft taxation, and restricting the liability of aircraft owners. He has either written or been directly involved in the passage of over 32 pieces of aviation legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed into law by various governors.
He was also active in the legal community as chairman of the Indiana State Bar Association Aviation Law section, organizing and presenting numerous aviation law seminars around the state. Bob took his keen legal aviation knowledge and love of teaching into academia. In 2008, he joined the Indiana University McKinney Law School faculty as an adjunct professor and developed the school’s Aviation Law course which he taught until 2016. The aviation law course is still taught to this day.
In June 2011, Bob retired from the Indianapolis Airport Authority with 38 years’ service. Governor Mitch Daniels recognized his long, important service to Indiana aviation and the state by awarding his the Sagamore of the Wabash. Also in 2011, Bob Duncan received the FAA Master Pilot award in recognition of 50 years of safe aircraft flight operations. Bob’s expertise and skill were always in demand. In March 2012, the Airport Authority recalled Bob to serve as its Executive Director. He remained in that position for 2 years, retiring again in 2014 with forty-one years of service to the airport!
He also managed to find time to serve as the Chairman of the Indianapolis Air Show at the Indianapolis regional Airport for several years through its final show in 2012. Bob’s skill as a pilot was evident throughout his career. He holds Airline Tranport and Flight Instructor certificates for instrument, single, and multi-engine aircraft. He has been an active flight instructor since 1969 and served as a FAA Designated Pilot Examiner for 34 years. During his flight instructor career, Bob served as Chief Flight Instructor for three FAA-approved Part 141 flight training organizations. Following his Airport Authority retirement, Bob joined the law firm of Norris, Choplin, Schroeder as “Of Counsel” practicing soley aviation matters.