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More Robert Osborn Illustrations

Posted by on December 2, 2009 8 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog

A couple of months ago, I shared with you some illustrations that I found on the back cover of some older FAA Aviation News. These illustrations were done by the illustrator and cartoonist Robert C. Osborn. Little did I know that finding and preserving more of these illustrations would turn into my new hobby.

Since my first Osborn post, I have learned a great deal about the artist and his other work. I’ve learned that Osborn contributed to FAA Aviation News for nearly 25 years from the early 60s to the mid 80s. I’ve also learned that Robert Osborn was the creator of the first and original “Dilbert” cartoon character. Osborn drew nearly 2,000 safety posters for the Navy during WWII that featured “Dilbert the Pilot” and “Spoiler the Mechanic”. Dilbert and Spoiler were both the ambassadors of carelessness and recklessness. “Don’t be a Dilbert” was a popular phrase used among pilots to encourage others to think about safety continuously.  Did you know that the popular comic strip Dilbert actually borrowed it’s name from the Dilbert drawn by Osborn?  According to Scott Adam’s blog, the name Dilbert was given to him by a co-worker who later confessed that he saw the name on some of his dad’s military memorabilia.

As I promised earlier, here are some more Robert Osborn illustrations from the FAA Aviation News. You’ll notice a theme with these particular illustrations…winter flying! Unfortunately, that season is upon us and it’s time that we all started thinking about the dangers and complications of flying in icing conditions.   This would be a great time to grab that POH and look over cold winter operation notes and any other limitations that colder weather may pose to your upcoming flights.

Fly Safe (and enjoy)


  1. Patrick Flannigan on Dec 07, 2009

    I dont’ know what’s better, the airplanes with unhappy faces, or the clever rhymes that go with it. I can almost hear John and Martha King saying this stuff…

  2. Gabe Greener on Dec 08, 2009

    dude these drawings are awesome! thanks for sharing.

    MEI checkride this week; Walt Schamel is my examiner-he’s the guy who wrote the FAR’s!

  3. Wayne Conrad on Dec 10, 2009

    These are great. Did anyone else think that (what I assume is) the rubbernecking pilot in “Circle Twice…” looks like an alien eye-stalk?

  4. Airplane videographer on Feb 03, 2010

    They are all very talented drawings but I personally find some of them a bit disturbing. I am going to be afraid of in-flight icing for a long time now!

  5. Paul on Feb 03, 2010

    You should be afraid of in-flight icing! I think what impresses me most about these drawings is their educational power. You can spit out a page full of stats, accident reports and physic lessons but a simple drawing can make the same or stronger impression upon a student. Psychologists may disagree, but I think fear is a very healthy motivational tool for learning to fly correctly.

  6. Jeff on Dec 13, 2013

    I found an original Osborn watercolor painting of a cartoon done 1933 when he taught art at the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, CT. It shows a member of a local rowing club (The Ferderber Beer and Rowing Club of Lake Wononscopomuc) of which he was a member. The character in the painting is suffeuing from hand blisters. Is this something you would be interested in adding to your collection? I was going to put it on Ebay then I found your website so I thought I’d offer it to you first. I can send you a jpeg if you would like.

  7. Joel Bader on Nov 19, 2015

    These illustrations bring back many memories of when I wandered through the US Government document shelves of my college library decades ago and discovered the back issues of the FAA General Aviation News! I became very fond of the Osborn cartoons and remember ones such as “Unless you are a lucky Leif/Use modern charts or come to grief.” I never become a general aviator, but I am still fond of those days–and of Osborn’s cartoons. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  8. John Williams on Aug 04, 2017

    I have 49 safety posters that were sent to Chandler airport in Fresno Ca. I collected them when I was a kid during the early 1970. My Dad was a private pilot. I collected these poster and still have them. The are Osborn posters. I will give you some examples. If you had a few, Stay out of the blue. Example; Weather bad? Don’t take a chance. Flying blind by the seat of your pants. Example; This erstwhile pilot had a blast. He flew VFR in a overcast
    Thanks John

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