I was born in Renton, Washington, on April 9, 1958. My father was an engineer for Boeing. My mother took time away from her career development after my birth to become a stay at home mom for the next six years. My father had been a Naval ROTC Cadet at the University of Colorado, and was enamored with all things aviation. I, too, grew to inherit the aviation passion. We moved around a lot and I attended high school in Missoula, Montana. I joined the Montana Army National Guard while I was finishing high school in December of 1975.
I attended the University of Denver on an Alumni Scholarship from 1976 to 1979, receiving a BS in Physics, and in the meantime, I transferred to the Colorado Air National Guard. I also took the opportunity to start on my private pilot license at one of Denver’s large general aviation flying clubs. I was fortunate enough to start working for Hughes Aircraft Company as an intern in 1978, and transitioned to full time work as a Physicist and Systems Analyst upon graduation, in their Spacecraft and Communications Group. Additionally, my employer allowed me to attend some graduate level courses in physics. Real life, marriage and major project management responsibilities ended up interfering with my capability to finish a graduate degree. I had been applying for pilot training positions with the Guard after college, and had finished my civilian ratings through single engine flight instructor (which I still keep current), but the Carter Administration era military funding cuts made training slots few and far between.
The election of the Reagan Administration and a new national sense of patriotism, resulted in a modernizing effort for Air National Guard units throughout the country. I was able to get an appointment to fly F-4's with the Louisiana Air National Guard in New Orleans through the Guard officer training program. I received a 2nd Lt commission and was sent to Mather AFB in Sacramento, CA for a year. My oldest daughter, Leah was born there.
I returned to Hughes Aircraft for the next few years, doing project management/systems analysis/physicist work, and in the meantime flying in the back of the F-4 with the Guard. An opportunity arose to attend pilot training due to my unit’s announced transition to F-15’s. This time, though, I decided that my heart wasn’t in another return to Hughes (massive changes were underway, with Hughes specifically, and consolidation in the military aerospace sector). I attended USAF pilot training at Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX, and F-15 school in Phoenix. My daughter, Karen, was born while I was on active duty in Texas. I returned to New Orleans and spent a few years on active duty, attending a number of professional level schools and honing my combat readiness skills. Although I contemplated starting my own consulting firm in the late 80's, the airline sector was in the midst of an unprecedented hiring binge. I decided to apply to American Airlines, and was hired there in 1988.
I was originally based in New York City, but after the acquisition of some of Eastern Airline’s assets, American opened a base in Miami, Florida. I was one of the first 727 crewmembers to transfer to Miami in 1989. I took a military leave of absence for a year in 1990, returning to American in 1991. I retired from the Louisiana Air National Guard as a Major in 1996, with just a few days over 20 years of service. I upgraded to Captain at American Airlines in 1999. I earned my airframe and powerplant mechanics license and incorporated a small aircraft restoration business in the late 1990’s, followed by gaining my Inspection Authorization from the FAA.
September 11, 2001 was the day everything changed. I was airborne between Salt Lake City and Dallas as my fellow countrymen lost their lives at the hands of terrorists in New York City and Washington DC. The industry was already showing signs of distress, particularly from a revenue side. The terrorist events allowed the airline to enact drastic changes using force majeure clauses to alter their contracts, followed by a series of Chapter 11 bankruptcies, wiping out wages and pensions. As difficult as it was, I got right back in the cockpit after the terrorist attacks. The crash of American Airlines 587 on Long Island had a huge impact on my life's direction. As a result of what happened that day, I became active in many aspects of peer support, safety investigation, critical incident stress management and contract negotiations.
In 2006, I became a labor representative to the US-EU Open Skies negotiations, assisting the US State Dept. This in turn led to a long term engagement in international aviation negotiations. I also became involved in advocating for the Pension Protection Act of 2006. In 2008, I took over our Government Affairs Committee, and became responsible for legislative and regulatory issues affecting all pilots of American Airlines. We were part of a coalition of independent groups, and I also became the legislative director of a trade association (CAPA), representing the pilots at SouthWest, American, US Airways, UPS, and the Teamster represented airline pilots. After 8 years, I relinquished those positions to my successor, and I have returned to line flying out of Miami. I remarried in 2012 and became a resident of Palm Coast, Florida. My wife had been caring for her father, who had moved to the community a few years prior, and we fell in love with the town where we now reside in the northern part of Florida District 6.
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