Former American Trans Air pilot Daniel N. Busta, 70, known for his smooth landings, was cleared for his final take-off. As the sun was rising on March 12, 2020, Dan made his ascent with much peace, surrounded by family and love. Dan graduated in 1968 from Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois and spent countless hours playing with his neighborhood buddies on South Austin Boulevard.
After coursework at Roosevelt College, Dan became a professional French horn player in the South Florida Symphony. It was during this time that he discovered his passion for flying. He saved his money, often eating only oranges and popcorn, to gather the funds for flying lessons. He knew aviation was his calling and earned his pilot's license at age 20.
Dan wore many hats throughout his life. He was a Hinsdale police officer when he met his first wife Julie, with whom he had three children, Lynée, Ashlee, and Daniel. During this time, he yearned to return to anything aviation-related. To pay the bills and gain expertise, he worked for Chicago Communication and Motorola, installing communications antennas on many of our favorite buildings that make up the Chicago skyline, including what we knew as the Standard Oil Building and Sears Tower.
Dan took second and third jobs as a mechanic for Braniff Airlines, started his own marine radio repair business, gave music lessons, and always did what was necessary to support the family and pursue his passions. He eventually put himself through school to earn his commercial pilot’s license and ratings to fly the Boeing 727 and Lockheed L-1011.
Dan had what his mother called an “itchy heel,” and his aviation career as a commercial pilot with Evergreen and American Trans Air gave him the freedom to explore new cultures. One of his greatest achievements during his piloting career was having the opportunity to circumnavigate the globe.
He was committed to a lifetime of learning and sharing that knowledge with anyone who would listen. Dan was not only a husband, dad, grandpa, uncle, son, brother, and friend, but also a man of Christ. He always made us laugh and had impeccable timing. Dan had the utmost respect for all who have served.
For over 55 years, Dan was a ham radio operator at W9GOB and achieved its highest distinction. He connected with people all over the world, trading QSL cards. He was an active member of the Six Meter Club of Chicago, and a ham radio club called the Grumpy’s. We all joked that Dan collected friends, and each one was more special than the next in his eyes.
Dan instilled in us all a love of flying, music, skating, caring for others, learning, and having faith. These characteristics were evident through his courage, determination, bravery, and curiosity.
With all of these joys and passions, he also led a 25-year journey of medical miracles. Shortly before his cancer diagnosis, Dan met the love of his life, Cheryl A. Gadbois. A 30-year marriage, their son Christian, and Dan’s strong commitment to them and God gave him strength. Cheryl always supported his passions, and they found Jesus together. Cheryl and Dan were devoted to each other and were constant companions.
At 44, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His then 15-year-old son Daniel donated bone marrow to save Dan’s life. During this time, the family took turns living in Houston close to MD Anderson Cancer Center, where Dan spent many months in treatment and healing. Intense radiation resulted in subsequent cancers, kidney failure, dialysis, a kidney transplant, a stroke, a heart attack, and oral cancer. Through all of this Dan NEVER complained.
Years later, Dan would become the only pilot to have double transplants (bone marrow and later the kidney) and have his aviation credentials reinstated.
Until the end, Dan was teaching his children and grandchildren about electronics, watching James Bond movies, playing catch with marshmallows, and reading the paper. He loved sharing relevant articles with friends and family, advising and counseling his children through their days, and blowing out the candles on his birthday cake to celebrate reaching 70. He made us laugh the whole time.
Dan was a role model by always helping those in need, something he learned during time spent at the Boys Club of Cicero in his youth. He later helped many ham radio operators who were visually impaired to repair radios and attend club meetings. His arms were always outstretched to take anyone in who needed his help.
At Palos Bible Church, Dan was a deacon, taught Awana, and played the French horn and shofar during special services. He never missed a Sunday, devoted as he was to his religious path. He was a member of the Prime Timers and could be found making pancakes during Easter Sunday brunch. Dan recalled to Cheryl his last service on March 1, remarking on the joy that he felt looking down the pew to see each of his children with an open Bible on their laps, following along during the service.
Dan would not want us to dwell on his physical absence. Our modern-day MacGyver would want you to go the extra mile, to stay on the rail, and, most of all, to trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Born March 3, 1950, Dan was the son of Nicholas and Marie and is survived by his beloved wife of 30 years, Cheryl (Gadbois), and son Christian; former spouse Julie (Foersterling) and their children, Lynée (Daniel Wells), Ashlee (Miro Kovacevic), and Daniel; grandchildren Nicholas, Emmarie, EllaLee, and Lucy; his sister Lynda (Gary Rovansek); and nephews Gregory and Christopher and niece Jennifer (Albert Miranda).
Visitation and Memorial Service is pending. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to
Lifeline Chaplaincy (www.lifelinechaplaincy.org),
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The Chicago Lighthouse (www.chicagolighthouse.org),
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Boys Club of Cicero (www.boysclubofcicero.org).
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Please follow the Colonial Chapel and Dan’s Tribute for any additional information about the Visitation and Memorial Service given the state of our world health crisis. coloniachapel.com 708-532-5400