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What’s your story as an aviation professional? Why and how did you land in aviation?


Machines and airplanes have always fascinated me. My father was a US Navy aircraft maintenance crew member, and he would show me pictures of airplanes. He arranged my 1st flight in a Stinson. I built model airplanes and visited local airports in high school, and attained my private, commercial, and CFI certifications in college. In my senior year, with 1000 hrs, I was hired by TWA as pilot and flight engineer on a Boeing 707. After 33 years, at the age of 57, I retired as a captain flying a Boeing 767-300. I now fly Citations and Gulfstreams.

Walt Bradshaw
ATP. Citation I
Owner
KTR Inc
Punta Gorda FL

 

Living in Montana when I was young, the military pilots used to break the sound barrier over our farm regularly. At that time, I developed a love for aviation. When I was 9 or 10, an uncle asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I stated that I wanted to be a pilot. He then asked what I would do while I was flying. I replied, “I would concentrate on the air.” For many years, that was a big family joke. I then started flying in high school. In 1981, I joined the Manhattan Flying Tigers club in Belgrade MT. That same year, I piloted the Grumman AA-1A Trainer on my own. After returning from Texas for Christmas, I found out that the plane was damaged, so I finished my training in a Cessna 172. After high school, I went into pre-med for a quarter, but then went back to flying at Walla Walla College, and ended up attending American Flyers in Fort Worth TX. I completed my private, instrument, commercial, flight instructor, and instrument instructor licenses. In later years I received my single-engine sea and multi-engine instrument instructor certificates. I haven’t looked back since.

Harvey Meharry
ATP. Hawker 400XP
Flight Dept Mgr & Chief Pilot
Southern Multifoods
Rusk TX

 

Born in the 60s, I grew up watching the US space programs Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. The whole world looked up to the US. All the astronauts were nice, young, clean-cut American boys. I admired these guys. They all started as pilots, and therefore I wanted to fly too. As luck would have it, back in 1997, while touring the Johnson Space Center, I got to pilot NASA’s Space Shuttle simulator, and I was able to fly the full approach.

Lloyd Sharp
ATP. Citation XLS+
Pilot
ONEsky Exclusive Travel Club
Eagle Point OR

 

I enlisted in the US Navy in 1973 after high school for air traffic control (ATC) because I wanted to get into aviation. I gained experience there, then continued my ATC career with FAA, and later on I earned my flying licenses. My goal was to become a professional pilot, but I took the long route to that career by then transitioning into flight instructing and then flying small twin-engine airplanes in the middle of the night on cargo runs. One day, a former flight instructor of mine called and asked about my career path. He mentioned that he might be able to get me into his company flying as his copilot on a Falcon 20 business jet. I was hired, and we enjoyed flying the Falcon 20 and a Challenger 600 together for about 5 years. I gained enough experience to apply for other jobs, and I was hired by Federal Express Corporate Aviation in 1989. I just finished a 31-year flying career with what is now FedEx Express. I went into aviation because I found it both challenging and rewarding at the same time. I loved learning all I could. There is no doubt that I made the correct decision in my young adult life to follow this career path. I was blessed and truly fortunate to have incredibly good people around me. I worked hard and earned their respect while learning everything they could teach me. In aviation, you never stop learning. Every day has the potential to teach you a new lesson.

Mark Casillas
ATP. King Air 90
Captain
NMSU Flight Operations
Las Cruces NM

 

Based on some homework assignments in kindergarten, I did have a plan to become a pilot. I didn’t choose to become a professional pilot until I researched pilot programs at state schools in Massachusetts. I heard positive things about Bridgewater State University, so several years and several student loans later, I’m working as a professional pilot.

Ryan Motte
Comm-Multi-Inst/CFII. Pilatus PC-12
Director of Safety
Tradewind Aviation
Naugatuck CT

 

My father was a naval aviator who flew many types of single-seat piston and jet fighters. After leaving the US Navy, he joined Braniff International. I was 2 years old at the time. I followed in my father’s footsteps. After completing college, I had the required hours and flight engineer certificate to join him at Braniff. In 1985, I joined American Airlines and, after 34 years there, including 22 years as a check airman and FAA designee, I retired and have gone back to corporate. I fly a King Air now.

Jeff Jones
ATP. King Air E90
Chief Pilot
Texas Pacific Land Trust
Dallas TX

 

In 1960 I was 15 years old. I had been working at a drive-in root beer stand for 2 years, earning 50¢/hr. I found out about a job at the airport mowing grass and fueling airplanes for $1/hr. In my family there was no one with any experience in aviation. After 57 years, I retired with 10 type ratings. I have also been president and co-owner of 3 FBOs. When I retired, we had 19 pilots and operated various aircraft, including pistons, turboprops, a Global 6000, and a Gulfstream V.

Terry Rackers
ATP/CFII. Global 6000 & Gulfstream V
Former President
Central Missouri Aviation
Jefferson City MO

 

My 1st airplane ride was in a Piper Cub with my high school girlfriend’s dad, who was a Consolidated PBY Catalina pilot in the US Navy during WWII. In 1968, I served in the Navy aboard a destroyer on plane guard duties behind aircraft carriers off the coast of Vietnam. It was like seeing the Blue Angels every day, and that experience instilled in me an overriding desire to become a pilot. The GI Bill helped me attain my commercial license, which enabled me to climb up the ladder. I flew everything – turboprops, jets, and helicopters. I truly love my career. I logged over 20,000 hrs. I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced it all.

John Ives
ATP. King Air 350 & Bell 430
Pilot
New York State Police
Voorheesville NY

 

At 17 years old, I was mowing my church lawn across from my high school. My occupations teacher walked over and told me about a lineman position at the airport. I applied and was hired. I recommended my friend to apply there, and he also got the job. He decided to learn to fly, and I thought I’d do it, too. I took my 1st lesson on my 18th birthday, and 11 weeks later I passed my private check ride. That took place in 1982. I’ve been making a living by flying planes since 1987, and have logged 12,793 hrs. Recently, my mom said, “I’m so surprised you became a pilot.” My response was, “There’s no one more surprised than me!” No one else in my family tree has been a pilot.

Todd Tobiason
ATP. King Air B200
Flight Dept Mgr
Tuls Dairies
Columbus NE

 

Growing up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin, there was an “airway” over the family farm. As a young boy, I’d look up and see various aircraft flying overhead. I recall seeing a Convair B-36 Peacemaker airborne above me. I got the flying bug around the age of 8 or 9. I took advantage of the GI Bill when I left the US Air Force as an enlisted guy to achieve all my ratings. Upon completion, I was qualified and hired as a flight crew member. In August 1973, I got a right seat job in an Aero Commander with 300 hours in my logbook. I’ve been in aviation since then, and was recently the recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award. I’m still flying 200 hours annually. It’s a fun career if you like lots of changes in your life.

Jimmy Farris
ATP. Challenger 300
Department Manager
Farris Aviation Consultants
Clarkston MI

 

Since I was very young I have always loved aviation. My father was an electronics specialist in the Spanish Air Force, so I grew up among ground radars, avionics, aircraft, and countless plastic models, with which I enjoyed playing thoroughly. I joined the Air Force to pursue a career as an officer, and was stationed as a ground and flight instructor at the Spanish Air Force Airlift School for 6 years. Afterwards, I moved to the Aids Calibration & VIP Transportation Unit. When my 36-year Air Force flying career was coming to an end, I was lucky enough to be selected for a position with my current employer. Thanks to this position, I have known the commercial and corporate world. I am turning 50 this September, I feel blessed for my aviation life, and I hope to be able to continue this great journey for the years to come.

Manuel Alcaide
ATP. Gulfstream G650/GVSP
Chief Pilot
SEAF/Gestair
Alcalá de Henares, Spain

 

While stationed in Turkey as an air operations specialist, I scheduled C-110s (Douglas DC-5s). I was on an empty leg returning to the base when the captain came back and asked if I would like to “wrestle this around for a while.” The hook was set. That was over 50 years ago, and I’m still active part-time.

Chuck Tame
ATP. Citation II/I
Line Pilot
Aero National
Grindstone PA

 

Started flying junior year of high school. I attended Arizona State University and graduated with a BS in aeronautical technology. I attained my ratings after college and worked for 2 years as a flight instructor, and then I transitioned into commuter airlines flying a Beechcraft 99 for 3 years. I shifted over to corporate, flying various King Airs, Jet Commander 1121, JetStar II/731, and BAC 1-11 in the span of 12 years. I retired in 2014 after working for UPS for 26 years, rated on Boeing 727, 747, 757, 767, DC-8, and MD-11 aircraft. Since 2016, I’ve been a part-time King Air ground and simulator instructor for SIMCOM.

Roger Battiston
ATP/CFII. King Air 90/100/200/250/300/350
King Air Instructor
SIMCOM
Florence KY

 

Had been in show business working as a technician, but my parents weren’t thrilled about it. My dad encouraged me to join the military for flight training back in 1976. I chose the US Army aviation program, and graduated from helicopter flight school in May 1977. I’m glad that, for once, I listened to my father. And 45 years later, I’m still flying as an EMS helicopter pilot.

Sara Stearns
ATP. Airbus H135
Pilot
CALSTAR
Seaside CA

 

I come from a long line of aviators, going back to the biplane days. My father, uncles, and older cousins were all commercial aviators. My dad used to take me to the airport from when I was 4 years old to see my uncles take off in the Curtiss C-46, Douglas DC-3s, and Lockheed L-188 Electras. I’m 74 and still flying. I still love it and look up every time an airplane passes. No regrets.

Edward Baro
ATP. Hawker 800XP
President
Compass Aviation Intl Corp
Hobe Sound FL

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