In the spring of 1965 I was an Air Force navigator preparing to leave active duty just as the major airlines were beginning to hire civilian pilots with low flight time. I was aware that these rare windows of opportunity were of short duration and for me time was imperative. In my five years of the Air Force service I had logged over 2,000 hours as a navigator in transport aircraft and acquired a FAA private license. I was focused and directed.
I began a search of FAA-approved flight schools offering a full range of aviation training. My criteria included a civilian flight school with a reputation for excellence of instruction, high standards of aircraft maintenance, and the weather environment for six day a week flying. It soon became obvious that Spartan School of Aeronautics met all the above criteria and the price was right.
For the duration of my Spartan flight training I had just one flight instructor, who had the wisdom to respect and make use of my prior aviation experience. My fight training included excellent periodic phase checks from the Chief Pilot Elmo Maurer. The ground school instruction was high quality. The training aircraft were first class and my entire instrument rating flight course was done in a complex airplane – a Piper Comanche 250, which was state of the art at the time.
Thanks to Spartan’s intensive program, I was hired by Northwest Airlines upon completion of my instrument rating. There was no doubt that the hiring chief pilot at Northwest was impressed by the meticulous records I hand carried from Spartan. Having considerable navigator time did not hurt my chances either. I entered a new pilot class on Oct. 25, 1965. The timing was nearly perfect.
Due to the extreme good fortune of being hired early in the hiring surge, my time in the second officer and copilot seats was short. I upgraded to the left seat of the Boeing 727 after less than four years of line flying. Of course there were set backs due to labor strikes, etc., nevertheless almost all of the rest of my career was in the left seat.
I had completed two years university studies when I began my airline career. To round out my education I managed to complete a couple university degrees on my days off. This often meant flying the undesirable trips and weekends. Northwest offered me an opportunity to work as a simulator and aircraft instructor/check airman, which allowed me to alternate between line flying and flight training. What an honor. I flew with and observed exceptional airmen (male and female) who took pride in knowing that we were flying for one of the safest airlines in the world. Northwest set the standards for training and standard operating procedures.
As I acquired seniority I opted for international flying as a captain on wide body aircraft. In time I also instructed line pilots in Inertial Reference System (INS/IRS) navigation and international procedures. This was a kickback to my navigator days. My ATP lists ratings on the B- 727, B- 747, B-747/400 and DC-10.
One of the most enjoyable unspoken benefits of an airline career is the grand window view we have our planet. I kept my flight bag was stuffed with National Geographic maps and charts to supplement the aeronautical charts to help explain the grandeur below. I still don’t understand passengers who prefer the on-board movies to spectacular scenery.
On October 30, 1998 I flew my final flight on a 747/200 from Tokyo to Seattle, with my wife seated behind me in the first class upper deck. Since there is a season for all things, I perceived it was time to put away the flight bag after a remarkable career.
I continued to fly light aircraft until 2007 when I sold my much appreciated RV-6A. It is no coincidence that the RV received meticulous annual inspections in a shop owned and operated by a Spartan Alumni. Now my pursuits are in other disciplines and classical music. I maintain close friendships with my former military and airline colleagues.
I am proud and grateful for my affiliation with Spartan School of Aeronautics. The good staff at Spartan enabled me to grasp opportunity when the moment was ripe.