Reflecting on 30 years as an Airline Pilot …

Looking back, September 20,1985 was a seminal day for me and my family as we tossed off the security blanket of a naval career and leapt into the unpredictable business of commercial aviation. The airlines were booming at that time, and fortunately, three different outfits offered me employment. Northwest Airlines, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, was the best fit so that’s where I headed. I left my family behind on a sunny, 85-degree day in San Diego and travelled to the Twin Cities. On check-in day at Northwest - still officially summer, mind you - the Midwest sky darkened and promptly unloaded three inches of wet snow. Was that possibly an omen of things to come?

Northwest was a unique airline. The company was not very large − comprised of roughly 2200 pilots then - but NWA held an asset coveted by the bigger carriers: its extensive and very lucrative Pacific route system. When United took over Pan American’s Pacific operation in late '85, that event seemed to trigger a series of other mergers: Northwest purchased Republic; Delta grabbed Western; USAir hooked up with Piedmont… and the list went on. Does anyone remember the names Ozark, Air Cal or PSA? How about proud pioneers like TWA and Eastern? Sadly, all went the way of rotary dial phones and leisure suits.

Industry consolidation continues today. United and Continental have joined, as have USAir and American. Five years have passed since I traded my steel-blue Northwest uniform for the double-breasted look of Delta. Instead of that tight group of 2200 aviators, I’m now part of a globe-circling enterprise with nearly 13,000 pilots. The last 30 years have been a turbulent ride for sure - with labor strikes, two mergers, numerous pay cuts, a bankruptcy, and thousands of nights away from home. Bottom line, though, it's been a great job and I'd do it all over again in a New York minute.

Next month: Aviation technology advances during the last three decades

Rotorboys Power Point at USNA Alumni Assoc. Hampton Roads Chapter

Had a wonderful time speaking to about fifty alums and other guests at the USNAAA Hampton Roads Chapter on June 17. Great response to my novel and even sold a few books!  It was an added treat to see '73 classmates Bill Ungvarsky and wife Lynie, along with Ken Berger and Frank McBride.

A special thanks goes out to Brad McDonald '77 who coordinated the event, and also to chapter president Dick Enderly '71. Go Navy!

Power Point presentation to San Diego USNA Alumni

Thanks to all who attended my Keynote on Feb. 17th, which detailed the research and backstory that went into writing Rotorboys. A spirited discussion followed as members recalled their own experiences operating in WestPac during the Marcos era. Also talked about the sequel, which focuses on terrorist activities conducted by Abu Sayyaf, an al-Qaeda trained group in the southern Philippine Islands.

Helicopters - Man vs. Machine

The U.S. Navy recently deployed its first helicopter drone onboard the littoral combat ship, USS Fort Worth.

HSM-35, based in NAS North Island, CA, operates the unmanned rotorcraft, along with a conventional two-piloted H-60 Seahawk. While this historic achievement is celebrated, there is a sobering downside for aspiring rotorheads: As “remote controlled whirlybirds” become more common, fewer actual pilots will be needed. This machine appears to be gaining fast on its creator!

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