Lancaster Physician Fall 2020 - 29

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Passion Outside of Practice
It's our pleasure to highlight a Lancaster City & County Medical Society member's "passion outside of practice" in
each issue of Lancaster Physician. Beyond their commitment to health care, LCCMS members have many other
talents, skills, and interests that might surprise you. In this issue, we're thrilled to feature Thomas R. Westphal, MD,
and his passion outside of practice.

Thomas R. Westphal MD,
Westphal Orthopedics

in trees. My dream was to add radio control where the
pilot is able to take off, perform aerobatic maneuvers,
and land the plane in one piece.
I got my first taste of general aviation during my
internship. I went to a local air show where I watched
the Blue Angels and several military and general
aviation pilots perform amazing maneuvers. I was
hooked and could not wait to start flight training.

How long have you been
participating in this activity?

I started building flying model planes when I was
about 10 years old. I bought my first RC set up over 40
years ago!
I started flight training about 20 years ago. Since then,
I have become instrument rated and have acquired
Commercial and Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificates
for single and multi-engine aircraft.

Why is this pursuit special
to you?

L to R: RC motor glider ready to launch; RC P51 Mustang ready to protect our allies; Captain Gil Rud with
Dr. Westphal and his daughter, Katie

Passion Outside of Practice:
AVIATION

Would you briefly describe your
passion outside of practice for
those who might be unfamiliar
with it?

I am passionate about general aviation as well as radio
controlled (RC) model aviation. General aviation (GA)
pilots are those who fly airplanes for business, personal
transportation, and recreational use. GA pilots have
access to more than 19,500 public and private airstrips
in the United States. I think of general aviation as a
modern version of a time machine. One can expect to
travel distances of 500 miles or more in about a third
of the time it would take while driving an automobile.

There are all kinds of model airplanes. Most of the ones
I build are scale models of existing aircraft. A basic RC
set up operates the engine throttle, ailerons, rudder,
and elevator. Small gas engines power a few of my
planes but most are powered by electric motors.

How did you develop an interest
in your passion outside of
practice?

My father introduced me to model aviation when I was
very young. He started me with stick and tissue rubber
band powered free flight models. I spent countless
hours building them from kits and then launched
them into the wild blue yonder. Some were never
found, swallowed by tall grass or landed on rooftops or

LANCASTER

29

PHYSICIAN

Modeling classic aircraft from the thirties, forties,
and fifties allows me to relive some of the great
accomplishments of American airplane designers and
aviators from the Golden Era of flight. I have found it to
be a great pastime that utilizes many of the skills I use
every day in my orthopedic surgery practice. Flying RC
adds the third dimension and control that really tests
my skill and tolerance for suboptimal results, less than
perfect landings for instance.
General aviation allowed me to visit my father and
other family members on a more frequent basis than
would have otherwise been possible. Visits to my dad
in North Jersey and children while away at out-of-state
colleges became day trips. In addition, places like
Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Vail, CO were easily
accessible via general aviation.

What else would you like readers
to know about this passion?
I was stationed at Pensacola Naval Hospital for my
final tour on active duty. While there, I performed
emergency surgery on the commanding officer of the
U.S. Navy Blue Angels. We became friends, and I was
adopted as their orthopedic surgeon, an unofficial
title to be sure. One result of this relationship was
that I got to fly in the Blue's F/A-18 Hornet, #7. With
that, I fulfilled an item on my bucket list that I never
thought possible.



Lancaster Physician Fall 2020

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