Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career

The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
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May 23, 2022

My name is Gabe Evans, and I’m running for Colorado House District 48. I’m a Christian, Colorado native, husband, father, and own/operate a family farm in southern Weld County. I love my country and state. That’s why, after earning a BA in Government from Patrick Henry College, I served for 12 years in the US Army and Colorado Army National Guard as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot and company commander. I also spent over 10 years as an Arvada police officer, sergeant, and lieutenant. During those careers, I completed a combat deployment in the Middle East, responded to multiple disasters and emergencies in Colorado, and worked closely with federal, state, and local governments. Unfortunately, my ability to fulfill my oaths has been handcuffed by the failed policies of the radical Leftists who control our state. Crime is out of control. The cost of living has skyrocketed. School kids are increasingly subject to political indoctrination while actual academic performance is ignored. That’s why I’m running for State House District 48. I’ll fight to hold criminals accountable, empower law enforcement and citizens to work together to improve community safety, and protect civil liberties. Reducing the cost of living starts with encouraging domestic energy production, agriculture, and empowering the free market. I’ll tirelessly defend those things. Finally, I know that parents (not the government) are the best people to make education and health decisions for their kids. I’ll zealously support families and parental choice. I want to put my 22 years of experience to work for you and make Colorado a safe, affordable place to live, work, and get an education. As your neighbor I promise to listen to your voices and represent your concerns. Will you join my team? Together we can stand up for common sense, the Constitution, and pass on freedom, security, and prosperity to the next generation of Coloradans! 

May 16, 2022

In Demystiflying, Kine Paulsen tells you what you need to do in order to become a pilot by going inside of the minds of more than 200 pilots. Paulsen deciphers the meaning behind even the most basic pilot terms and concepts to encourage everyone to give flying a try. This is pilot 101 for anyone who doesn't speak pilot. The book is for those of us who didn't grow up hanging out at the airport or flying flight simulators.

This book is for you who are considering pursuing your pilot license, who might be curious what it is like to be a pilot or you may have already logged some hours. Or maybe a gift to someone you're close to who has talked about getting into the cockpit, but not sure how to. If you're already a pilot, it should be exciting to reflect on how much you had to learn in order to get to where you are today. This book is not meant to replace any educational tools, but simply to motivate and inspire.

Paulsen did not spend her childhood dreaming of being a pilot, but chance had it she started her pilot journey in her mid-20s. Like many before her, she was overwhelmed by the amount of information, money issues, and scheduling aspect and stopped after only flying for a few hours. When she started years later, she was looking for a book to ease back in the process hoping she could learn some technical terms, procedures and read about other pilots' challenges. She found many great resources, but confused by the jargon she found herself even more intimated to get back at it.

Her personal obsession with understanding the aviation world turned into Demystiflying, an entertaining book to prepare anyone for the first meeting with the cockpit. She was excited to learn that most pilots question whether they are cut out for the challenge. That others also got confused at first. And was surprised by how exciting pre-1940 aviation history books were.

In researching her book, Kine interviewed these pilots who were prior guests of the Ready For Takeoff Podcast:

Patty Wagstaff

Erika Armstrong

Carl Valeri

Kim Campbell

Jason Harris

Pierre-Henri Chuet

Tom Cappeletti

Sharon Preszler

Jessica Cox

Liz Booker

Peter Docker

Randy Brooks

May 11, 2022

Operation Linebacker launched on May 10, 1972. It marked the first bombing of Hanoi in North Vietnam since the end of Operation Rolling Thunder in November 1968. I was a ground spare, waiting to launch in the even that any of the strike F-4 aircraft from Ubon Royal Thai Air Base aborted, either on the ground or in the air.

I sat in my fully armed aircraft and waited for all of the strike aircraft to launch, then conttinued to wait until they had all reached the airborne pre-strike tanker aircraft, then I de-armed and taxied back to the parking revetment. And then I waited for my brothers to return. A few hours later, they all did. ALL of them.

The next day, May 11, 1972, was my turn to fly, as Number Two in Dingus Flight. (Later, strike aircraft carried tree call-signs - Maple, Elm, Walnut, etc. - but at this point in the operation we used call signs from the VCSL - Voice Call Sign List.) 

During the pre-flight briefing, Wing Commander Colonel Carl Miller made an announcement: “Yesterday, we had a close call. One of our aircraft mis-ID’d an aircraft and fired at one of our aircraft. Lucily, he missed, but we can’t have that again. Effective immediately, the Rules of Engagements are changed. All MiGs are silver. You MAY NOT fire at a camouflaged aircraft. If I hear that you fire at a camouflaged airplane I’ll ship your ass home the minute you land. Any Questions?” None of us had any questions. It was pretty clear. MiGs are silver.

On this day, like the previous day, our Wing Commander would lead the strike. The Commander of the 25th Tactical Fighter Squadron, my squadron, would be the lead of Dingus Flight. I was put in the Number Two position because I was still a fairly new pilot, an “FNG”, and the Number Two position was a place where the flight lead could keep a close watch on the FNG. Our target would be the Bac Mai Airfield.

We took off as the sun rose, headed north over Laos for our refueling, and proceeded toward our target. My back-seater was First Lieutenant Johnny Wyatt. Johnny was an “old head”: he had been on the strike over Hanoi the previous day, so he knew what to expect. We ingressed the target area in spread formation, approximately 1000 feet between aircraft. I was on Lead’s right. Just as Lead rocked us in to close “fingertip” formation for our bomb run, Johnny screamed at me.

“We got a SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) at four o’clock! Break right!”

I had no idea what a SAM looked like in flight, and I didn’t see it. “I don’t see it.”

“It’s a f@#cing SAM! BREAK RIGHT!”

When easy-going Johnny is screaming, I knew it was serious. I broke hard right. Shortly after that, the SAM exploded right where I would have been.

Listen to the podcast for the rest of the story!

May 9, 2022

From LinkedIn:

4500+ hour professional pilot (instructor / evaluator / maintenance test), educator, and aviation/leadership/organizational management consultant built on a foundation of 21 years as a fighter pilot in the US Air Force (F-15E Strike Eagle).

Highly proficient in the use of basic & advanced information technologies to help plan, brief, execute, and debrief aviation-oriented solutions to even the most challenging aviation business problems.

Most Current experience:
+ Chief Pilot of Part 91 private business flight program
+ Lead Fixed Wing Pilot of Part 135 air ambulance program at Children’s Hospital Colorado
+ Affiliate Faculty at Metro State University of Denver, Aerospace Sciences Department
+ Consultant in air transportation planning, organizational leadership, and process improvement.

Depth and breadth of aviation & non-aviation experience as:
+ Executive leadership/management advisor & coach
+ Team and organizational leader
+ Program & project manager
+ Educator & trainer
+ Standards & compliance evaluator

International experience.
+ Aviation consultant and trainer in over twelve countries in
> Europe
> Africa
> West Asia (Eastern Mediterranean & Arabian Gulf regions).
+ Roles included
> Aviation planning/briefing/executing/debriefing training-team leader
> Multi-national aviation-related cross-functional conference project manager
> National defense consultant.

Lauded for ability to rapidly observe, analyze, and synchronize new information in order generate innovative solutions/improvements through:
+ Well-developed diplomacy and consensus building skills
+ Leveraging of highly effective process review & improvement techniques
+ Optimization of team diversity by focusing individual strengths toward a common purpose
+ Coordination of disparate individual efforts to achieve effective synchronization

Passion for helping organizations enhance individual and team relevance in an increasingly competitive globally-connected environment.

Apr 25, 2022

Directed by Louisa Merino (Managing to Win: The Story of Strat-O-Matic Baseball) and produced by Melissa Hibbard (The Glass House) and Oscar winner Ed Cunningham (Undefeated), the film tells the remarkable story of a World War II fighter pilot from New Jersey who flew the last combat mission over Japan.

On August 14, 1945, fighter pilot Jerry Yellin flew the last combat mission of World War II to attack airfields near Nagoya, Japan, carrying with him instructions to continue the assault unless he heard the word “Utah,” a code signaling the Japanese surrender, which never came. It was Yellin’s 19th mission over Japan.

Yellin returned home to a dark life of survivor’s guilt and daily thoughts of suicide. Married with four sons, he was forced to face his ‘enemy’ once again when his youngest son moved to Japan and married the daughter of a Kamikaze pilot. Through deep agonizing and soul-searching reflection, the two fathers eventually open their hearts and their arms to each other.

By the time of his passing in 2017, Yellin had become an outspoken advocate for veteran mental health and co-founded Operation Warrior Wellness, a division of the David Lynch Foundation that teaches veterans TM to better cope with the effects of PTSD.

Producer Ed Cunningham said: “Jerry’s journey from the depths of post-war depression to his late life transformation, which included him tirelessly advocating for peace and Veteran’s care, will inspire and resonate with everyone who sees this film. Add in the unbelievable twist of his son marrying a Kamikaze pilot’s daughter and the friendship the two fathers developed late in their lives, and this is a story we felt had to be shared.”

The movie is being released on home ent platforms this year.

Apr 18, 2022

There were more than 400 people on board the Boeing 747-400 that unexpectedly rolled into a left bank in Russian airspace over the Bering Sea, forcing pilots to maneuver to keep the airplane from rolling over and diving into the ocean.


The senior captain on that airplane was John Hanson, who helped maintain control of the plane and fly it while also trying to determine what was wrong with the plane and how to make adjustments.

Landing in Russia would not be ideal, and the decision was made to change course to Alaska.

Hanson, a Northwest Airlines captain, was recently honored for helping to prevent this potentially catastrophic aircraft accident and saving hundreds of lives Oct. 9, 2002. He was presented with the Superior Airmanship Award by the Air Line Pilots Association, International during the association's annual Air Safety Forum.


Although the situation above the Bering Sea that day could have been a scene out of an action-packed movie, the difference with the actual event was that there was no super hero -- there was teamwork, Hanson said.

"Teamwork got us through this thing," Hanson said. "I'll take compliments for the landing, but I'm more proud of being a team leader."

Hanson has flown for Northwest Airlines for 35 years and during that time has never experienced a situation in the air that has been so dramatic.

"That malfunction -- the manufacturer said it could never happen," Hanson said. "We had no procedure to follow."

What the crew found out later was that a mechanical malfunction resulting from equipment blowing apart caused the problems.

"Experts in structures have since analyzed the parts -- they can't find the cause," Hanson said. "Obviously, it blew apart."

There is no suspicion of foul play, Hanson said, but was rather a "freak deal."

Working with Hanson during the ordeal was another captain and two co-captains -- the plane had two sets of pilots since the flight from Detroit to Tokyo was so long. Hanson credits his co-captain with a quick recovery "that probably saved the plane."

Hanson was reading in his bunk in a private room for the pilots when the malfunction occurred.

"We were in smooth air and suddenly there was a violent shift," he said.

There were no windows in the room. Hanson quickly put his uniform on to go assess the situation. When he arrived in the cockpit, the pilots were fighting to control the plane, he said.

The cockpit operating manual was open and the pilots were desperately trying to find information on the problem.


Hanson and his co-pilot starting going through the manual as well but they could find no information that pertained to what was happening. An emergency situation was declared and the decision was made to head back to Anchorage.

Because of their location, communication with the ground was difficult and contact was made through San Francisco to Minneapolis using what Hanson calls the "old fashioned type of radio." A conference call was held to discuss the problem.

"We needed to work as a team and put all our heads together," he said.

As senior captain, Hanson decided he should be the pilot who landed the plane, and after discussion with the other pilots he took over the controls. The pilots actually had to take turns handling the plane since managing the controls required strength and stamina because of the malfunction.

To counteract the highly technical problem, pilots manually applied pressure to a foot pedal. At this point, the pilots were still not sure about the exact nature of the mechanical failure.

"I would have given $1,000 for a rear view mirror to have just looked at the tail," Hanson said.

A subsequent National Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed that the lower rudder failed in left hard over position at 17 degrees of travel, which was full deflection for their airspeed in cruise flight. It remained fully deflected for the rest of the flight.


The decision was made to fly at a lower altitude where the air is not as thin, Hanson said, and they did not have to operate as "close to the edge." They went down to 28,000 feet but could not go lower because of the mountains.


Early in the crisis it was decided to make the flight attendants part of the team, and information was shared regularly with them. They were told by the pilots that being able to land safely was in question, and once the plane was landed it might not be able to stay on the ground because of the problem.

The lead flight attendant received the information about the problem so plans could be made for an emergency landing.

Hanson then brought the plane down to 14,000 feet over Cook Inlet, where there was communication with Anchorage about the emergency landing. Hanson said they were low enough for thick air but high enough to recover if necessary.

"Since we didn't know the nature of the problem, we wanted to slow down and extend the flaps very gradually," he said. "We all decided on this plan. We picked the inlet over land to have more room for recovery instead of being over the mountains."

He and the other pilots had talked extensively about which runway to use based on what was happening with the plane, the wind and other factors.

"All the pilots talked about the advantages and disadvantages, he said.

During the landing, Hanson said the plane came in just a little bit faster than normal. He told the flight attendants it would be a "firm" landing. The pilots were also nervous the rudder would give bad directions to the plane's nose wheel.

"As it turned out, it was a fairly smooth landing," he said.

The flight attendants were told people could remain seated -- there was no need to evacuate. Since people on the ground had seen that the wheels and brakes "had been bright red" the plane waited in a remote spot to cool down.


The only awkward moment on the ground was that customs was not prepared to handle 418 people coming in so it took awhile to get everyone off the plane, Hanson said.

After leaving the plane, Hanson went to look at the rudder where the problem had occurred.

"We looked up at this huge rudder hard over to the left and we just shook our heads -- wow, what an evening," Hanson said.

Another 747-400 was sent to Anchorage to transport passengers to Tokyo the next day, and though the pilots were told they did not have to go up again, all of them did.

"Every single passenger also got on," Hanson said.

The pilots involved with the incident have since made a training video that is being used for crews. It demonstrates that not all emergencies are in the book.

Pilots at this level through their years of experience are a valuable source of information, he said, and involving people from the first moment allows them to be able to help.

The Hollywood version of this story would have one pilot acting as the hero, but "in real life, heroes are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances," Hanson said.

Hanson has been flying since he was in his teens, and before he had even graduated college he was hired as a commercial pilot. Despite lucrative offers from airlines, he balanced college and eventually graduate work while flying.

Hanson turns 56 this month and regulations require he retire when he is 60. When he retires as a commercial pilot, Hanson said he will continue flying as a hobby, particularly antique airplanes.

Hanson said a truly successful career involves no "emergency" moments such as he had one year ago. Exciting moments for him, he said, are beautiful sunsets viewed from the plane, and traveling over the Canadian Rockies and Alaskan Wilderness.


Apr 4, 2022

3 March 1991, UA585, a 737-200Adv crashed on approach to Colorado Springs. The aircraft departed from controlled flight approximately 1,000 feet above the ground and struck an open field. After a 21-month investigation, the Board issued a report on the crash in December 1992. In that report, the NTSB said it “could not identify conclusive evidence to explain the loss of the aircraft”, but indicated that the two most likely explanations were a malfunction of the airplane’s directional control system or an encounter with an unusually severe atmospheric disturbance.

8 Sep 1994, US427, a 737-300 was approaching Pittsburgh Runway 28R when ATC reported traffic in the area, which was confirmed in sight by the First Officer. At that moment the aircraft was levelling of at 6000ft (speed 190kts) and rolling out of a 15deg left turn (roll rate 2deg/sec) with flaps at 1, the gear still retracted and autopilot and auto-throttle systems engaged. The aircraft then suddenly entered the wake vortex of a Delta Airlines Boeing 727 that preceded it by approx. 69 seconds (4,2mls). Over the next 3 seconds the aircraft rolled left to approx. 18deg of bank. The autopilot attempted to initiate a roll back to the right as the aircraft went in and out of a wake vortex core, resulting in two loud "thumps". The First Officer then manually overrode the autopilot without disengaging it by putting in a large right-wheel command at a rate of 150deg/sec. The airplane started rolling back to the right at an acceleration that peaked 36deg/sec, but the aircraft never reached a wings level attitude. At 19.03:01 the aircraft's heading slewed suddenly and dramatically to the left (full left rudder deflection). Within a second of the yaw onset the roll attitude suddenly began to increase to the left, reaching 30deg. The aircraft pitched down, continuing to roll through 55deg left bank. At 19.03:07 the pitch attitude approached -20deg, the left bank increased to 70deg and the descent rate reached 3600f/min. At this point, the aircraft stalled. Left roll and yaw continued, and the aircraft rolled through inverted flight as the nose reached 90deg down, approx. 3600ft above the ground. The 737 continued to roll, but the nose began to rise. At 2000ft above the ground the aircraft's attitude passed 40deg nose low and 15deg left bank. The left roll hesitated briefly, but continued and the nose again dropped. The plane descended fast and impacted the ground nose first at 261kts in an 80deg nose down, 60deg left bank attitude and with significant sideslip. All 132 on board were killed.

More information

From 737 Systems Website:

The main rudder PCU contains a Force Fight Monitor (FFM) that detects opposing pressure (force fight) between A and B actuators. This may occur if either system A or B input is jammed or disconnected. The FFM output is used to automatically turn on the Standby Hydraulic pump, open the standby rudder shutoff valve to pressurize the standby rudder PCU, and illuminate the STBY RUD ON, Master Caution, and Flight Control (FLT CONT) lights.
The standby rudder PCU is powered by the standby hydraulic system. The standby hydraulic system is provided as a backup if system A and/or B pressure is lost. With the standby PCU powered the pilot retains adequate rudder control capability. It can be operated manually through the FLT CONTROL switches or automatically. (Refer to Chapter 13, Hydraulics, Standby Hydraulic System)
An amber STBY RUD ON light illuminates when the standby rudder hydraulic system is pressurized. The standby rudder system can be pressurized with either Flight Control switch, automatically during takeoff or landing (Refer to Chapter 13, Hydraulics, Standby Hydraulic System) or automatically by the Force Fight Monitor. The STBY RUD ON light illumination activates Master Caution and Flight Control warning lights on the Systems Annunciation Panel.

Mar 29, 2022

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, communities around the U.S. will pay tribute to Vietnam veterans and their families on National Vietnam War Veterans Day.

U.S. involvement in Vietnam started slowly with an initial deployment of advisers in the early 1950s, grew incrementally through the early 1960s and expanded with the deployment of full combat units in July 1965. The last U.S. personnel were evacuated from Vietnam in April 1975.

Approximately 9 million Americans served during the Vietnam era (Nov. 1, 1955, to May 15, 1975). More than 6 million are still alive.

The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017 established March 29 as the day to pause and commemorate, remember, recognize and honor Vietnam Veterans, former Prisoners of War, those listed as Missing in Action and their families.

March 29 was chosen for several reasons. It was on this date 49 years ago that the last combat troops departed Vietnam. It was also on this day, nearly half a century ago, that Hanoi freed the remaining prisoners of war the Republic of Vietnam was willing to acknowledge.

As part of the national observance, the Vietnam War Commemoration is interviewing Vietnam Veterans and their families and archiving these oral history interviews on the commemoration website and via the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. To learn more about this program visit or visit their Facebook page at

Our previous Vietnam veteran guests:

Steve Ritchie

Lee Ellis

Doc Weaver

Bill Driscoll

Steven Bennett

Larry Freeland

Ralph Wetterhahn

Manny Montes

Vic Vizcarra

John Borling

Charlie Plumb

Robert Shumaker

Smitty Harris

Randy Larsen

John Morrissey

Ric Hunter

Charles Doryland

Jim Badger

George Hardy

Robin Olds

Russ Goodenough

Don Mrosla

Ed Cobleigh

Dave Scheiding

Don Shepperd

Patrick Brady

John Fairfield

Lynn Damron

Lawrence Chambers

Bob Gilliland

Brian Settles

Mark Berent

Dick Jonas

Merrill McPeak

John Swanson

Dale Stovall

Walt Fricke

Bill Straw

Son Tay Raiders

Lance Sijan

Mar 25, 2022

Medal of Honor Citation:

While on a flight over North Vietnam, Capt. Sijan ejected from his disabled aircraft and successfully evaded capture for more than six weeks. During this time, he was seriously injured and suffered from shock and extreme weight loss due to lack of food. After being captured by North Vietnamese soldiers, Capt. Sijan was taken to a holding point for subsequent transfer to a prisoner-of-war camp. In his emaciated and crippled condition, he overpowered one of his guards and crawled into the jungle, only to be recaptured after several hours. He was then transferred to another prison camp where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated at length. During interrogation, he was severely tortured; however, he did not divulge any information to his captors. Capt. Sijan lapsed into delirium and was placed in the care of another prisoner. During his intermittent periods of consciousness until his death, he never complained of his physical condition and, on several occasions, spoke of future escape attempts. Capt. Sijan's extraordinary heroism and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the cost of his life are in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Air Force and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Armed Forces.

From Into the Mouth of the Cat: The Story of Lance Sijan, Hero of Vietnam:

On the night of November 9, 1967, Sijan was ejected from his crippled fighter-bomber over the steep mountains of Laos. Although critically injured and virtually without supplies, he evaded capture in savage terrain for six weeks. Finally caught and placed in a holding camp, he overpowered his guards and escaped, only to be captured again. He resisted his interrogators to the end, and he died two weeks later in Hanoi. His courage was an inspiration to other American prisoners of war, and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


From Leading With Honor:

Chapter 9 page 117-118

Before my deployment to Southeast Asia, Air Force 1st Lt Lance

Sijan and I had been dormmates and golfing buddies. At Son Tay camp,

I learned that his plane had gone down one day after mine. Badly

injured, he survived in the jungles of Laos for 46 days before being

captured. His remarkable story was not a surprise. Throughout our

training he was always keen about his professional development. Lance

stood out in survival school because he appeared to be the most highly

motivated learner, both in the classroom and on the mountain trek.

As Ron Mastin (1st Lt USAF) flashed Lance’s painful story across the

camp to our building, I put the pieces together. I remembered our first

winter of captivity, when my cellmates and I had listened helplessly

as someone in a cell down the hall deliriously cried out for help. I summoned

the officer in charge, and a few minutes later Fat in the Fire

opened the peephole in our door. “Please, will you help this man?”

I pleaded. With a serious look on his face he replied, “He has bad head

injury. Been in jungle too long. Has one foot in grave.” He slammed the

peephole shut and left.

Of course, in the isolated cells of Thunderbird, we had no way of

knowing who was dying. Two years later, I realized that we had been

audible witnesses to Lance’s last valiant struggle to survive. After the

war, we learned more details of Lance’s heroic actions to evade, escape,

and endure. His courageous efforts to resist, survive, escape, and return

with honor were so notable that he was awarded the Congressional

Medal of Honor (posthumously). One of the Air Force’s most prestigious

annual awards for leadership is named the Sijan Award.

Mar 21, 2022

Jennifer-Ruth Green continues to serve her fellow citizens in the United States Air Force Air Reserve Component and is now running to represent her fellow Hoosiers in Congress.

A battle-proven leader, a trailblazer, and a selfless servant, Jennifer-Ruth Green is a candidate for Indiana’s First Congressional District. Her continued experience of over twenty years of military service and her non-profit work throughout Northwest Indiana has prepared her to fight on behalf of the Region in Washington, D.C.

Born to Vivian and Paul R. Green Jr., Jennifer-Ruth “Romper” Green is the youngest of six children.  At eighteen years old, Jennifer-Ruth followed in her father and grandfather’s footsteps and joined the United States Air Force.

After graduating from the USAF Academy in 2005, Jennifer-Ruth began her Air Force career in aviation and then transitioned to serve as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. She deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM where she served as a mission commander for counterintelligence activities. After her deployment, Jennifer-Ruth assumed the role of Deputy Chief for a nuclear command post.

After twelve years of full-time military service, Jennifer-Ruth transitioned to the US Air Force Reserve Component and chose to make Indiana home.  Currently, she serves as the Chief Information Officer/Commander, 122d Communications Flight, Indiana Air National Guard. She is the first African-American, or Asian, woman selected to serve in this position in the history of the Fighter Wing.



Locally, Jennifer-Ruth serves her community in Northwest Indiana as an educator, and is the founder of MissionAero Pipeline, a non-profit reaching at-risk youth that seeks to transform lives, inspire STEM careers, and set students, as young as 5th grade through college, on a path of learning in the aerospace industry.

Jennifer-Ruth has been a trailblazer throughout her career. While attending the USAF Academy, Jennifer-Ruth was inspired by Lt. Col. Lee Archer, USAF, an original Tuskegee Airmen, and earned her pilot’s license. Now as a civilian, Jennifer-Ruth is a Certified Flight Instructor, commercial pilot, and one of fewer than 150 African-American professional female pilots in the US.



Jennifer-Ruth earned a B.S. in Asian Area Studies from the United States Air Force Academy, an M.Min. from Golden State Baptist College, and a B.S. in Aeronautics from Liberty University. She is currently enrolled in Air War College, studying strategic leadership across military operations, in joint, interagency, & multinational environments. She is a graduate of Air Command & Staff College. She is a regular speaker at aerospace/STEM events, loves traveling, and has visited all seven continents. Jennifer-Ruth lives in Crown Point, Indiana, and is a proud aunt to fifteen nieces and nephews.

Mar 14, 2022

Al Malmberg is a 50-year radio veteran who currently hosts The World of Aviation radio program.

(AM-1280-The Patriot)  Other than this one hour a week show, Malmberg is enjoying retirement and doing lots of flying off a private strip in Colorado.  He enjoys MCing The Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame Banquet each year in the Twin Cities.

Al was on the air for 17 years on WCCO radio in the Twin Cities.  Concurrently, Malmberg was the regular fill-in host on "Overnight America" on the CBS Radio Network. 

He also hosted the nationally syndicated Radio program, The Al Malmberg Show on The Business Radio Network.

Malmberg has been married to his wife, Kathy for 50-years. They have two sons and six grandchildren.

Mar 7, 2022

Oshkosh — It was a homecoming of sorts for Caroline Jensen on Thursday. When she arrived at EAA AirVenture, it was with a bang.

Actually, it was a low rumble followed by a deafening screech that prompted spectators to stick fingers in their ears as Jensen and her five teammates soared through the skies over Oshkosh to prepare for their performances this weekend.

The Air Force major, fighter pilot and Wisconsin native is the third woman and the first mother to fly in the Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team.

"For me, this is a dream come true — who wouldn't want to perform at Oshkosh? It's kind of like playing at Carnegie Hall," Jensen, 37, said in an interview outside her No. 3 plane shortly after arriving at Wittman Regional Airport.

Born in New Richmond, Jensen grew up in River Falls and got hooked on flight when she saw a plane flying in the clouds in a TV movie at the age of 5. She watched the Thunderbirds perform in Eau Claire when she was 13, sparking her dreams of one day becoming an Air Force fighter pilot.

She didn't get her first flight until she was 15 — in a single-engine Cessna 172. Her second and third flights were to and from the Air Force Academy for swim camp and her fourth was to basic training after she had been accepted as a cadet.

The daughter of a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam, she graduated from the Air Force Academy with a bachelor's degree in English and spent 10 years on active duty and the past five years as a reservist. She's the first female reserve officer to fly with the Thunderbirds

Before joining the famous flight demonstration team, she was a T-38 instructor and assistant flight commander for Air Force Reserve Command's 340th Flying Training Group at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas.

She met her husband in glider school while they were at the Air Force Academy. He's now a commercial airline pilot and stays home in Las Vegas with their 5-year-old son while Jensen is on the road 220 days a year. With both parents pilots, it's no surprise their son has a propeller next to his bed, a Braniff Airlines poster on his wall and a bookcase in the shape of a plane tail.

When she finishes this season in the Thunderbirds, she'll head to Washington, D.C., to be a congressional liaison for the Air Force.

One reason there are so few female Thunderbird demonstration pilots is because only 7% of America's fighter pilot forces are female, Jensen said.

"To be on the team, you have to be at the right place in your career with the right set of skills, a family who's supportive and the desire to do it. So there's a lot of things that have to happen for any pilot who wants to be part of the team," she said.

She has spent quite a bit of time in the cockpit — it is, after all, her office — with 3,100 hours as an Air Force pilot, including 200 hours of combat in F-16s in Iraq.

Jensen was at Disneyland with her family, standing in Cinderella's castle, when her cellphone rang in 2012. On the line were all 12 officers from the Thunderbird team calling to congratulate her. Most pilots spend two years in the Thunderbirds but because the military's flight demonstration teams were grounded last year due to sequestration, the entire team stayed together for an additional year.

She flies the No. 3 plane on the right side of the diamond, sometimes as close as 18 inches from the lead plane at speeds up to 450 knots. It's not for the faint of heart. In some of the maneuvers, Thunderbird pilots feel as much as 9 Gs on their bodies and fly as low as 300 feet from the ground.

This weekend AirVenture air show spectators will see Jensen and the rest of the Thunderbirds perform loops and rolls as they zoom as low as 500 feet over the crowd in their white F-16s adorned with red and blue stars and stripes. Her favorite maneuver is when the four planes in the diamond split off from each other in four directions.

So is it nerve-wracking or comfortable flying in such tight formation?

"It's both," she said, adding that the pilots practice their show far away from each other and gradually move closer.

"It's all very controlled. I know exactly what (the lead pilot) is going to do, he knows exactly what we're going to do. There are commands we go through and we've literally done them hundreds of times," she said. "It's very deliberate, very rehearsed and very safe."

This is the first visit by the full Air Force Thunderbird flight demonstration team to EAA AirVenture and because the "aerobatic box" — the air space above the grounds — is bigger than for other air show performers, convention organizers are moving spectators 150 feet back from the normal flight line. Also, residents and businesses inside the aerobatic box must leave for a few hours while the team performs.

Feb 14, 2022

Rick is one of the most unique artists in the world. He has been likened to such great artists as Rembrandt & Maxfield Parish. He is an Old World-Flemish style painter, meaning he paints using transparent colors to build depth and color. Rick's artwork has continually grown in value over the years. Although he has specialized in Aviation artwork, he has created other works from landscape to space paintings. Rick is also the master at "Starlite" painting. He has developed a technique that uses UV and fluorescent paints to change his paintings under different light frequencies. His paintings go from a Day scene to a Night scene under Blacklight. This is an incredible process that allows his works to actually become living pieces. He can make clouds move. He is an Old World-Flemish style painter, meaning he paints using transparent colors to build depth and color. Rick's artwork has continually grown in value over the years. Although he has specialized in Aviation artwork, he has created other works from landscape to space paintings. Rick is also the master at "Starlite" painting. He has developed a technique that uses UV and fluorescent paints to change his paintings under different light frequencies. His paintings go from a Day scene to a Night scene under Blacklight. This is an incredible process that allows his works to actually become living pieces. He can make clouds move... Rick has thousands of collectors around the world.

Rick's first efforts with drawing and painting aircraft began as a child. He was a Boy Scout and earned the Aviation Merit Badge. As soon as he was 13 years old he left the Boy Scouts and joined the Pueblo Colorado Civil Air Patrol as a cadet. He stayed active with the CAP becoming a Senior Member when he was 18 years old. "The Civil Air Patrol was a huge help to me during my teenage years. I loved every aspect of the CAP and got to fly a lot too. I was in a Piper Cub waiting to take the active at Pueblo when a United Airlines jet airliner taxied up behind us and stopped only a few feet short of our airplane!" I took movies of that event and hope to get them on DVD sometime soon." 

Encouragement for Broome as an artist began as early as he could start coloring inside the lines. At age 7 he won a national coloring contest sponsored by the Better Homes and Gardens national magazine. This was when he was drawing and coloring aircraft from every era. His passions in aviation and flying were encouraged by his parents and friends. By the time he was 15 years old he was taking private commissions for original art from pilots in both the Denver and Pueblo areas. These early sales combined with true focus allowed young Broome to solo on his 16th birthday. He was checked out in 8 different aircraft within a month of his solo and logged hundreds of hours flying time while still in high school.

In 1971 Rick and Billie were also fortunate to begin meeting young officers returning from flying missions in Vietnam with new assignments to teach cadets at the Academy. The cadet leadership of the Air Force Academy class of 1974 was so pleased with his paintings that they commissioned an original painting of a USAF Cessna T-41 trainer for their Class Gift to the Academy at graduation. 

This set the precedent for Broome’s devotion to the Academy and their annual graduation class paintings. “The relationships we made with many of our cadets went on to become lifetime events for which we are very thankful. I know I have fed far in excess of a thousand cadets!” said Mrs. Broome during a recent interview." 

Rick’s final flight in the cockpit of a United airliner was on November 7, 1970 when he rode jump seat on a 4 hour training flight in a brand new United Boeing 747. “I got to fly the Boeing 747 back from Las Vegas in the left seat. Braniff Airways skipper the late Captain Len Morgan was my copilot. "Len asked me what I thought the bird felt like and I replied it reminded him of flying a C-47.” 

Len’s eyes got real big and he replied “You have flown a DC-3?” And then Rick told him how -- at the age of 14 -- he had indeed flown a USAF C-47 from Lowry AFB in Denver to the Academy and back as part of his Civil Air Patrol Summer Encampment activities! United Captain Ed Mack Miller and famed aviator and chart maker Elrey B. Jeppesen had begun mentoring Rick when he was 14 years old. 

Rick has flown about 2200 hours in 47 different aircraft. In addition he has completed nearly 3000 original paintings which are on display throughout the world. 

Feb 1, 2022

 Peter Docker is passionate about enabling people to unlock their natural talents and teaches leadership that is focused on commitment and human connection. This approach harnesses the collective wisdom of teams to generate extraordinary outcomes. Peter's commercial and industry experience has been at the most senior levels in sectors across more than 90 countries, including oil & gas, construction, mining, pharmaceuticals, banking, television, film, media, manufacturing and services. His clients include Google, Four Seasons Hotels, Accenture, American Express, ASOS, EY, NBC Universal and over 100 more.


Having served for 25 years as a Royal Air Force senior officer, Peter has been a Force Commander during combat flying operations and has seen service across the globe. His career has spanned from professional pilot to leading an aviation training and standards organization, teaching postgraduates at the UK's Defence College, to flying the British prime minister around the world. Peter has also led multibillion-dollar international procurement projects and served as a crisis manager and former international negotiator for the UK government.

A keynote speaker and facilitator, Peter presents around the world offering workshops and bespoke leadership programs. He also worked with Simon Sinek for over seven years and was one of the founding ‘Igniters’ on Simon’s team. He took his years of practical experience to co-author Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, with Simon Sinek and David Mead. Published in September 2017, it has been translated into more than 25 languages and has sold over 460,000 copies. 

Jan 20, 2022

Good Moral Character

  • Section 18 (Conduct an Airline Transport Pilot Certification, Including Additional Category/Class Rating)
  • C. Good Moral Character Requirement:
    An applicant must be of good moral character. The inspector must ask an applicant if the applicant has been convicted of a felony. If the applicant’s answer is affirmative, the inspector should make further inquiry about the nature and disposition of the conviction. If an inspector has reason to believe an applicant does not qualify for an ATP certificate because of questionable moral character, the inspector must not conduct the practical test. Instead, the inspector will refer the matter to the immediate supervisor for resolution. The supervisor may need to consult with regional counsel for a determination concerning whether the applicant meets the moral character eligibility requirement.

From AOPA:

Nothing can derail a professional flying career quicker than a revocation of an FAA airman certificate. Despite the FAA’s new compliance philosophy, which makes a very good attempt at establishing a “positive safety culture”—and recognizes that inadvertent rule violations can be best addressed and remedied through education, counseling, or remedial training—there are some transgressions that command the ultimate penalty: certificate revocation.

FAA Order 2150.3B. the FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program, is the guidance document that stipulates the processes FAA personnel follow when pursuing an enforcement action. Perhaps the most grievous of all “sins” committed by anyone who seeks or has a certificate or operating privilege is falsification. The order states, “In general, the FAA considers the making of intentionally false or fraudulent statements so serious an offense that it results in revocation of all certificates held by the certificate holder. Falsification has a serious effect on the integrity of the records on which the FAA’s safety oversight depends. If the reliability of these records is undermined, the FAA’s ability to promote aviation safety is compromised.”

Here are other highly probably revocation actions: student pilots flying for hire or compensation; CFIs falsifying any endorsements; flight operations by anyone whose pilot certificate is suspended; virtually any flight operation involving the use of drugs or alcohol contrary to the limits specified by the regulations; transport of controlled substances; three convictions for DUI/DWI moving violations within three years; reproduction or alteration of a medical certificate; and conviction for possession of illegal drugs other than “simple possession.” Other illicit activities that could result in a certificate suspension, civil penalty, or even revocation are listed in the FAA’s order.

If you have stepped way over the legal line and the FAA has taken all your certificates in a revocation action, are you forever grounded? Not necessarily. In general, revocation actions last one year. But, recognize that you will need to reapply for every certificate and rating that you once possessed.

The first suggestion: Re-familiarize yourself with the information on the knowledge tests. Study up for the private, instrument, commercial, and ATP during your yearlong hiatus. If you previously held an ATP certificate prior to revocation, then you must complete an Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP CTP) as required by FAR 61.156.

If there is any saving grace to this predicament, it is that all previous flight time remains valid. There is no need to acquire another 40 hours of flight time, for example, to retake the private pilot checkride. But, before taking the practical test for each of the certificates and ratings that have been lost, you are required to receive three hours of instruction from a CFI.

So even if the worst should happen and you lose all of those pilot privileges because of a serious misdeed, all is not lost. In a year’s time you can be back in the sky, hopefully much the wiser. But, who will hire you? Well, the news there is not that good.

An unofficial survey of recruiters for a few “big name” regional and major airlines revealed that those carriers have a “zero tolerance” policy. The problem for these companies is the potential risk and the fallout in the event of an accident or incident involving a pilot who has been suspended or revoked. The press would, no doubt, zero in on the fact that the airman has a “history of noncompliance” with the regulations. This kind of PR is unwelcome.

However, there could be smaller operators that would be willing to give you another chance. This may depend greatly upon when the violation took place. Perhaps the “drug bust” or DWIs took place at age 20 but now, at age 35, you have led a decade of stellar living. After all, shouldn’t “rehabilitation” play a role in hiring decisions?

One option for returning to the industry is starting an aviation-related company yourself. Whether it is a single-pilot Part 135 operation, aircraft management, banner towing, a flight school, scenic tours, or aircraft sales, there are other avenues to the sky.

For a superb example of forgiveness and redemption read Flying Drunk by Joseph Balzer. It is an inspirational story by one of three Northwest Airlines pilots who, in March 1990, flew a Boeing 727 from Fargo to Minneapolis after swigging beer at a local bar the night before. All three were arrested for intoxication, convicted, sent to federal prison, and stripped of their pilot certificates.

As Balzer says, “It was horrible. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was so humiliated, embarrassed, ashamed.” Of course, he feared that he would never fly again. However, American Airlines—in an exceptional and laudable extension of second chances—restored his career where he returned to the cockpit.

As an aside, the industry has a tremendous resource for commercial pilots who suffer from alcohol or substance abuse: the Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) program. As stated on its website, “HIMS is an occupational substance abuse treatment program, specific to commercial pilots, that coordinates the identification, treatment, and return to work process for affected aviators.” Good to know, just in case.

We humans make mistakes, sometime serious. In the case of FAA certificate revocation, second chances are possible.


In terms of a state offense, DA Flynn says someone with a fake vaccine card could be charged with Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree. That's a Class "D" felony, so someone convicted could face up to 7 years in prison.

New York State's attorney general Letitia James has weighed in on this as well. She's asked anyone who thinks they might be a victim of a COVID vaccination card scam to call her office at 1-800-771-7755.

On the federal side of things, the FBI shared a PSA this year that explains how Title 18 of the U-S Code, Section 10-17 stipulates you cannot fraudulently use the seal of any US government agency - and if you do, you could face up to 5 years in prison.

Jan 10, 2022

Have you ever really thought about what you might do if a super-storm, earthquake, fire, pandemic, or flood were to force you to leave your home suddenly?

What would you do that first day away, the third, or even two weeks later?

What would you able to grab and take with you??

What important things would you be forced to leave behind?


The Basic Bug Out Bag aka Go-Bag

Lets start with the primary items needed for survival. ShelterClothingFood and Water. Below is a list of the essentials you need to have ready should you have to leave your house in an emergency, and can only grab a Bug Out Bag before you go.

It provides you with the most basic of provisions to get you through 72-hours away from home. You probably already have most of these things already:

Print out this checklist if it helps you to have a paper copy of the items below. 

  • Backpack
  • Bottle(s) of water
  • Flashlight
  • Pen and notepad
  • Snack bars
  • Cash
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Change of clothes
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant
  • Beach Towel
  • Dust Mask
  • Pocket Knife
  • First Aid Kit (band aids, alcohol wipes)
  • Chap-Stick
  • Work Gloves
  • Deck of cards and/or a book
  • Cell phone charging cable
  • Poncho or umbrella
  • Street Map of Local Area
  • Sturdy Plastic Cup
  • Fork and Spoon

Keep it handy, and easy to find should you need it. If you have a family, have a pack for each person. We will get more in detail with the articles which follow and we will introduce you to The Bug Out Bag Builder Four Part Emergency System.

NOTE: If you only own one of something, and you put it into your emergency kit you will ultimately wind up taking it out of your bag to use elsewhere. This means you should have a second item dedicated for your kit itself. You won't remember to grab it on the way out (or have time to).

If you want to get something TODAY RIGHT NOW that at least gets you some coverage, head over to The Red Cross store and grab their basic Go-Bag. Its $55 and gives you a platform to build on.

This isn't our first choice because think its better to build your own from the ground up, but its better than nothing. You will still need to add to it though.


The next most important step - and the one that will really save your life:


Staying informed

You MUST to know what is going on in the world around you. You may only have a few days notice that a hurricane is going to hit your home, can you get you and your family ready in less than 48 hours?

How much time will you have if you receive a tornado or earthquake warning?

If cell phone service is down do you have other equipment which will help you communicate with the outside world?

You have to have some way to get information delivered to you quickly about local events - especially when a catastrophic one is heading your way. Local TV, AM radio, Emergency officials, are the most obvious, but we've added some below which will also help you get timely and accurate information:

Wireless Emergency Alert System


For those of us in the US with a smart phone made after 2012 the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system automatically sends severe weather, AMBER, and Presidential alerts to your mobile device.

There's nothing you need to do to enable it, its part of all phones made in the last few years. You will hear an alert sound from the phone and see a message on the screen. You can disable the weather and Amber alerts it if you'd like but not the Presidential alerts.

Jan 1, 2022

What You Need to Know

  • Delay travel until you are fully vaccinated.
  • Check your destination’s COVID-19 situation before traveling. State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place.
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports).
  • Do not travel if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you are sick, or if you test positive for COVID-19.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, get tested both before and after your trip.

Delay travel until you are fully vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself from severe disease, slow the spread of COVID-19, and reduce the number of new variants. CDC recommends you get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose if you are eligible. People who are not fully vaccinated should follow additional recommendations beforeduring, and after travel.

Before You Travel

Make sure to plan ahead:

  • Check the current COVID-19 situation at your destination.
  • Make sure you understand and follow all state, local, and territorial travel restrictions, including mask wearing, proof of vaccination, testing, or quarantine requirements.
    • For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state or territorial and local health department’s website where you are, along your route, and where you are going.
  • If traveling by air, check if your airline requires any testing, vaccination, or other documents.
  • Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel.

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If you are NOT fully vaccinated, get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before your trip.

Do NOT travel if…

  • You have been exposed to COVID-19 unless you are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
  • You are sick.
  • You tested positive for COVID-19 and haven’t ended isolation (even if you are fully vaccinated).
  • You are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test. If your test comes back positive while you are at your destination, you will need to isolate and postpone your return until it’s safe for you to end isolation. Your travel companions may need to self-quarantine.

Top of Page

During Travel



Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and while indoors at U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and train stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor areas of a conveyance (like on open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top deck of a bus).hands wash light icon

Protect Yourself and Others


  • Follow allstate and local health recommendations and requirements at your destination, including wearing a mask and staying 6 feet (2 meters) apart from others.
  • Travelers 2 years of age or older should wear masks in indoor public places if they are:
  • If you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older, you should wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
    • In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).

Top of Page

After Travel

You might have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. You might feel well and not have any symptoms, but you can still be infected and spread the virus to others. People who are not fully vaccinated are more likely to get COVID-19 and spread it to others. For this reason, CDC recommends taking the following precautions after returning from travel.vial light icon

ALL Travelers


  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms; isolate and get testedexternal icon if you develop symptoms.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements after travel.

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If you are NOT fully vaccinated


Self-quarantine and get tested after travel:

  • Get tested with a viral test 3-5 days after returning from travel.
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel, even if you test negative at 3-5 days.
  • If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.

If Your Test is Positive

If You Recently Recovered from COVID-19

You do NOT need to get tested or self-quarantine if you recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days. You should still follow all other travel recommendations. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms after travel, isolate and consult with a healthcare provider for testing recommendations.

Dec 28, 2021

1 December 1993; Northwest Airlink (Express Airlines) BAe Jetstream 31; Hibbing, MN: The aircraft had a controlled flight into terrain about three miles (five km) from the runway threshold during an an excessively steep approach in conditions of snow and freezing fog. Both crew members and all 16 passengers were killed.

3 December 1990; Northwest DC9-14; Detroit, MI: The DC9 was taxiing in fog and strayed onto an active runway where it was hit by a departing Northwest 727. One of the four crew members and seven of the 40 passengers were killed. There were no fatalities on the second aircraft.

13 December 1994; American Eagle (Flagship Airlines) BAe Jetstream Super 31; Morrisville, NC: The aircraft crashed about four miles (seven km) from the runway threshold during an approach at night and in icing conditions. The flight crew incorrectly thought that an engine had failed and subsequently followed improper procedures for single engine approach and landing. Both crew members and 13 of the 18 passengers were killed.

20 December 1995; American Airlines 757-200; near Buga, Colombia: The aircraft crashed into Mt. San Jose at night at about the 9,000 foot level while descending into Cali, Colombia after its flight from Miami. All eight crew and 155 of the 159 passengers were killed in the crash. Colombian civil aviation authorities report that at the time of the accident, all navigational beacons were fully serviceable and that the aircraft voice and data recorders did not indicate any aircraft problems.

20 December 2008; Continental Airlines 737-500; Denver, CO: The aircraft, which was on a scheduled flight to Houston's Intercontinental Airport, departed the runway during takeoff and skidded across a taxiway and a service road before coming to rest in a ravine several hundred yards from the runway. The aircraft sustained significant damage, including a post crash fire, separation of one engine and separated and collapsed landing gear. There were about 38 injuries among the 110 passengers and five crew members, including two passengers who were seriously injured.

26 December 1989; United Express (NPA) BAe Jetstream 31; Pasco, WA: A combination of an excessively steep and unstabilzied ILS approach, improper air traffic control commands, and aircraft icing caused the aircraft to stall and crash short of the runway during a night approach. Both crew members and all four passengers were killed.

28 December 1978; United Airlines DC8; Portland, OR: The aircraft ran out of fuel while holding for landing and crashed landed. Of the 184 occupants, two crew members and eight passengers were killed.

Dec 21, 2021

All December proceeds from the sale of Hamfist novels and the proceeds from the audiobook Hamfist Over The Trail will be donated to charity to help the victims of the tragic midwest tornadoes.

December has a bad reputation for airline landing gear accidents. As an airline Captain, during every December flight I would brief my crew that, in the event of a landing gear indication problem, we would not delay the landing to trouble-shoot our issue. There is no record of airline fatalities due to LANDING the airplane with a gear problem, but 114 passengers and crew lost their lives from accidents in which airline crews attempted to deal with unsafe landing gear indications. All three of these accidents occurred in the month of December.

The first was Eastern Airlines Flight 401, which occurred on December 29, 1972.

The next accident was United Airlines Flight 2860, on December 28, 1977.

The most recent was United Airlines flight 173, on December 28, 1978.


Dec 11, 2021

Frozen Chosen: With the path to Hungnam blocked at Funchilin Pass due to the blown bridge, the US Air Force stood tall to deliver the means for the Marines to continue their fighting withdrawal.

At 9 am on 7 December, eight C-119 Flying Boxcars flown by the US 314th Troop Carrier Wing appeared over Koto-Rl and were used to drop portable bridge sections by parachute. The bridge, consisting of eight separate 18 ft long sections, were dropped one section at a time, using two 48 ft parachutes on each section. Each plane carried one bridge section, weighing close to 2,500 pounds. The Marines needed only four sections, but had requested eight in case several did not survive the drop.

The planes lowered to eight hundred feet, drawing fire from the Chinese on the surrounding hills, and the cargo masters began dumping their precious cargo. Each bridge section had giant G-5 parachutes attached to both ends for security if a single chute failed. A practice drop with smaller chutes at Yonpo airfield near Hungnam had failed, but there was no time for more experimentation. It was now or never for the 1st Marine Division.

By 1530 on 9 December, four of these sections, together with additional wooden extensions, were successfully reassembled into a replacement bridge by Marine Corps combat engineers, led by First Lieutenant David Peppin of Company D, 1st Engineer Battalion, and the US Army 58th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company enabling UN forces to proceed. 

Outmaneuvered, the PVA 58th and 60th Divisions still tried to slow the UN advance with ambushes and raids, but after weeks of non-stop fighting, the two Chinese divisions combined had only 200 soldiers left. The last UN forces left Funchilin Pass by 11 December.

Dec 6, 2021

My team and I are passionate about connecting people to their passion, for a purpose and creating fulfillment in their lives. I, personally am so passionate about this because I walked through a stage in my life where I stopped dreaming. Though that season was scary and unknown, it was the start of The Winning Network. Check out the story below!
I remember the moment very clearly. I was 1.5 years away from being done with my 12 year Pilot commitment with the United States Air Force. It was at this point in my career that my peers, Commanders, and friends began to ask you the same question: are you staying in for 20, or are you getting out? I remember it so vividly because the question hit me like a brick to the chest. If it is possible for 1000 epiphanies to hit you in a single millisecond, that would have been my moment. 
 I realized in that instant, I didn’t know what was next in my life. I was a man with no plan, no goal, no aspiration, no dream. I remember standing there dumbfounded with these life-altering thoughts storming my mind. Somewhere along the way, I had become so focused on accomplishing the “here and now” and the Air Forces approved “next steps to success” that I had stopped listening to the dreams that dwelt in my own heart. I had allowed those visions for the future to be silenced by the well-intended advice of what I “should be doing” to “stay the course for Command.” It was at this moment I realized, I had stopped dreaming years ago. I was a man who had accomplished all I had set out to do and had nowhere else to go. I lacked vision, expectation, and even a single goal. In my own rush to accomplish the day-to-day, I forgot where I was going in my life. 
 As terrifying as this moment was for me, I have grown to realize, I am not the only one to have experienced such a life-changing moment. As I have shared my experience with friends, family members, and co-workers, I have grown to see that this significant emotional event or one like it has impacted almost everyone I have come across.  All of us who have been speechless in its wake have unfortunately suffered these mind-melting realizations seemingly alone with few places to turn for help, but not anymore!
That is where The Winning Network was created. What started as a need I longed for in a season that I was so lost, turned into a business to help others facing similar struggles plus so much more. At The Winning Network, our focus is not to help our family reach a peak of accomplishment, raise a victory flag and walk off the field of life, but instead to redefine what it means to “Win” altogether. At The Winning Network, “Winning” is not about reaching a desired state of being or result, but instead establishing a continued process of personal improvement and growth in which there is never an end state of success, however a continued state of fulfillment throughout the iterative process of constant growth. Those who merely desire to wage the war of goal setting, defeat the objective and raise their personal banner of “Mission Accomplished” will find no satisfaction, nor fulfillment in the grassroots of The Winning Network. Victory is not found in a result, but instead, in the process. 

Nov 29, 2021

Just then, the apartment door opened.

I heard a soft-spoken female voice, “Tadaima!”

“Miyako is here, and she brought our lawyer from the airport,” Tom remarked.

A very attractive Japanese lady entered the room, walked right up to me, held out her hand, and bowed slightly. I had expected her to be wearing a kimono, but she was wearing a conservative, grey dress.

She had a slight accent, “I'm Miyako. Thank you for saving my husband's life!” She gripped my hand with both of hers.

“It's a real pleasure to meet you, Miyako. I'm not so sure I saved his life, but I'm glad I was there to help.”

Tom interjected, “Here comes my lawyer.”

A gorgeous Eurasian woman, about my age, entered the room, rushed over to Tom, and hugged him. “Daddy!”

Tom hugged her back, then introduced me, “Samantha, this is the Hamilton I've been telling you about.”

She held out her hand. “Call me Sam.”

I shook her hand, and said, “Sam, it's a real pleasure to meet you. I'm Ham.”

“Sam I'm Ham,” she responded, “sounds like we're reading a Doctor Seuss book.”

Tom beamed. “That's my girl. Sharp as a whip. She finished at the top of her class at Harvard Law School last month. We're so proud of her.”

Sam appeared to blush.

“Now,” Tom said, “let's go have a great dinner. Do you like steak?”

He didn't have to ask me a second time.

While I put on my suit and tied my tie, Tom changed to an equally outstanding outfit. We all got into the car, and Tom said something in Japanese to the driver.

“The absolute best steak in Tokyo is at the Misono Steak House, in Akasaka,” Tom announced.

We drove through narrow streets for about a half hour, and pulled up outside a small restaurant front.

We went into a dimly-lit, elegant restaurant, and sat at a table with a large skillet built into the surface. Tom and Miyako sat on one side of the table, and Sam sat next to me, on my right. I think she purposely positioned herself there to help me with my chopsticks if I had trouble. A chef appeared with four thick steaks, some shrimp, and an assortment of vegetables, and he proceeded to cook them in front of us. He put on an incredible performance, slicing and dicing the steaks and then tossing the pieces of meat over his head and catching them in the rice bowls in front of each of us.

“This is Kobe beef,” Tom explained. “Every minute of their lives these animals are massaged, and they're fed beer all day long. The meat is tender enough to cut between your chopsticks. You'll see.”

“And, by the way,” he continued, “from now on, we're not calling them chopsticks. They're hashi.

“Got it. Hashi,” I answered.

“Ham went to the Air Force Academy,” Tom explained, looking at Sam.

“Where’d you go for undergraduate?” I asked Sam.

“I graduated from Northwestern in 1966.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes, with me trying my best to impress my hosts, and especially Sam, my facility withhashi. I was getting pretty good, getting almost every bite to my mouth without dropping anything.

Then Sam ventured, “You know, I almost dated a cadet once.”

“Sounds like you dodged a bullet,” I replied.

“No, I was actually really looking forward to it. In the fall of 1963, when I was a sophomore, the Army and Air Force were playing their first-ever football game, at Soldier Field in Chicago.”

I remembered it well. I was a doolie at the time, and the entire cadet wing was going to travel to Chicago by train to watch the game and then have a post-game formal ball. We were going to have a joint ball with the “Woops” – the West Pointers – who had also come to Chicago en masse. As a doolie, I had never gotten the opportunity to leave the base since entering the Academy in the summer, and this was going to be a real treat. After the game, we would have about four hours to be out on our own to explore Chicago before the ball. I was really looking forward to it.

Then, the day before our departure, my appendix burst and I had peritonitis. I had emergency surgery, and couldn’t go on the trip. I was stuck in the Academy hospital, to watch the game – Air Force beat Army – on television. The only cadet in the hospital. In fact, I was the only patient in the entire hospital, other than a Math instructor’s wife, who was only there for about three days to deliver her baby.

“There was a formal ball after the game,” Sam continued, “and they wanted local college girls to be blind dates for the cadets. It sounded like it would be fun, and I volunteered. I bought a beautiful gown and gorgeous long, white leather formal gloves. And shoes. Remember?” She looked over at Tom and Miyako. They nodded.

“I showed up at the ball, and I was as dolled-up as I could be. I’d gone to the hairdresser and had my hair done in the morning, and had my nails done also. And the cadets were so handsome in their mess uniforms. Is that what it’s called?”

“Mess dress,” I answered.

“That’s right, mess dress. And I’m not just saying this, Ham, I thought the Air Force cadets looked a lot sharper than the West Pointers.”

“It goes without saying,” I answered.

“So, I went to the reception hall where all the girls were assembling, and one by one the social director called out the names of the girls and they would go through the door to the ballroom and meet their blind dates.” She paused, took a deep breath, and swallowed hard. “And then I was left all alone. I didn’t have a date.”

“What!” I exclaimed. “Were they crazy?”

“No, it was just, the blind dates had already been pre-arranged, and the cadet I was supposed to be paired up with was in the hospital. I went back to my dorm room and cried myself to sleep.”

Tom and Miyako were staring at me.

“Ham! Are you all right? You’re white as a sheet.”

I found myself frozen, with my chopsticks, okay, myhashi, half-way to my mouth, and I couldn’t move. Finally, I regained my composure.

“That was me! I was the cadet in the hospital!”

Now it was Sam’s turn to be speechless.

Tom looked at Miyako and said, “Sore wa narimasu”. She nodded. Then he looked at me.

“I’m sorry for speaking Japanese, Ham. What I said to Miyako was that when something is meant to be, it will be.”

My eyes locked onto Sam’s and I remembered: that was exactly what Colonel Ryan had said.

Nov 18, 2021

The aircraft involved in the accident was a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10, registered N68045, which had made its first flight in 1972.

The captain was 59-year-old Charles E. Hersche, who was operating his last flight before retirement. He had been with Continental Airlines since 1946 and had logged 29,000 flight hours, including 2,911 hours on the DC-10. Hersche served with the U.S. Air Force from 1942 through 1953 during World War II and Korean War.

The first officer was 40-year-old Michael J. Provan, who had been with Continental Airlines since 1966 and had 10,000 flight hours, with 1,149 of them on the DC-10.

The flight engineer was 39-year-old John K. Olsen, who had been with the airline since 1968. He was the least experienced member of the crew with 8,000 flight hours, 1,520 of them on the DC-10.

The aircraft began its take-off from Los Angeles International Airport at around 9:25 am. During the takeoff roll, the recapping tread of the number-two tire on the left main landing gear separated from the tire and the resulting overload caused that tire to blow out. That, in turn, imposed an overload on the number-one tire on the same axle, resulting in a second blowout almost immediately after the first blowout. Pieces of metal from the rims of the failed tires then damaged the number-five tire on the left main gear, causing it to also blow out.

Although Captain Hershe initiated the abort procedure at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) below V1 speed, it became apparent the aircraft could not stop within the confines of the runway. This was the direct result of the partial loss of braking power following the failure of the three tires on the left main gear, and also because the runway was wet. The captain steered the aircraft to go off the end of the right half of the runway in an effort "to go beside the stanchions holding the runway lights", thus avoiding a collision with the approach light stanchions, which were positioned immediately beyond the end of the runway. About 100 feet (30 m) beyond the end of the runway, the left main gear broke through the nonload-bearing pavement, which caused it to collapse rearward. Portions of the failed gear punctured fuel tanks in the left wing, immediately starting a fuel fire on the left side.

The aircraft slid to a stop about 664 feet (202 m) beyond the departure end of the runway. Because of the fire on the left side of the aircraft, all passengers evacuated on the right side. All four emergency evacuation slides on the right side of the aircraft were affected by the heat and failed at some point during the evacuation. Flight 603's flight crew and an off-duty pilot worked quickly to guide passengers to alternate exits as the slides failed, actions later commended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for saving lives and reducing the number of injuries.[1]:38 Passengers who were still on board after the last slide failed were forced to either jump to the ground, or use a slide rope deployed from the first officer's cockpit window.

Of the 186 passengers and 14 crew on board, two passengers died due to burning and smoke inhalation. Moreover, 28 passengers and three crew members were seriously injured during the evacuation. Two of the seriously injured passengers died as a result of their injuries about three months later.

A large portion of the aircraft's left section was destroyed. The aircraft subsequently was written off as a hull loss. The accident represents the second fatal accident and fifth hull loss of a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.

During its investigation, the NTSB found the number-two tire failed because it threw off its (recapped) tread. The number-one tire then failed because it was overloaded and had fatigue in its ply structure. The number-five tire then failed, because it was hit with a piece or pieces of metal from either the number-two or -one wheel. The failure of that third tire on the left main gear probably contributed to the gear breaking through the nonload-bearing pavement beyond the end of the runway, which in turn caused the gear to collapse and puncture the fuel tanks. Additionally, the NTSB stated: "The tires on the aircraft may have been operated in the overdeflected condition, since the average inflation pressure was less than the optimum pressure for maximum gross weight."

The NTSB made recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including that the FAA prohibit mounting on the same axle different models of tires, which had different load-bearing characteristics and also that greater load-bearing characteristics be required in tires manufactured in the future. The NTSB also issued a series of recommendations regarding improvements to aircraft evacuation safety, including development of more durable and fire-resistant slides, and the placement of evacuation ropes at emergency exits for use in the event of slide failure.

After the investigation of this accident was completed, the FAA made a number of rule changes improving runway performance, including updated tire rating criteria, performance standards, and testing requirements. In addition, the FAA mandated changes to the design of evacuation slides to increase their capacity, improve fire resistance, and inflate at a quicker speed.

Nov 15, 2021

A number of accidents, some of them fatal, and incidents have been attributed at least in part to communication issues related to the language proficiency of air traffic controllers and pilots.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandated that pilots and air traffic controllers demonstrate language proficiency sufficient to deal with the linguistic challenges presented by quickly changing and dynamic abnormal situations and emergencies that require extended use of language outside that of standard radiotelephony (RT).

The language proficiency requirements are applicable to non-native English speakers but, according to a statement in ICAO Doc 9835, “Native speakers of English, too, have a fundamentally important role to play in the international efforts to increase communication safety.”

Still, it seems that the onus for safeguarding successful communication is on the non‑native English speaker. In many cases, non-native speakers are tested and taught how to approximate to native speaker norms when, in reality, many of them will have less opportunity to interact with native speakers.

English, the language of aviation, is a first language or widely used national language in approximately 60 ICAO member states, ICAO said several years ago in Doc 9835. But the document also says that “there are more speakers worldwide of English as a second or foreign language than as a first language, and most of the contexts in which English is used occur among speakers of English as a second or foreign language. Non-native users of English outnumbered native users at the start of the 21st century by approximately 3 to 1.”

So, it stands to reason that the majority of aeronautical radiotelephonic interactions are between speakers for whom English is not the first language; in other words, it is a lingua franca — a language used for communication among groups of people who speak different languages. I won’t go into too much, but these interactions are qualitatively different from the interactions that take place between native speakers.

When non-native speakers engage with other non-native speakers in English, either in an aeronautical or a non-aeronautical context, they come to the speech event with their own language ability, their own cultural expectations, their own first language interference and a host of other unique dimensions. These interactions are “de-territorialized speech events”1 not tied to any one specific culture and so are very “hybrid in nature.”2

Native speakers tend to take so much for granted: connected speech, complex localized language structures, lexis (vocabulary) and much more. This puts the native speaker at a disadvantage as these features of native English speech are particularly problematic to non-native speakers at lower levels of proficiency.

Native speakers are in the minority3 and so, it has been argued, it is as incumbent on the native speaker as on the non-native speaker to meet part way by bridging the gap in safeguarding successful communication.4 It would appear, from the evidence and the literature, that there is a need for native-speaking pilots and air traffic controllers to undergo training to learn how to accommodate their non-native English-speaking interlocutors in order to safeguard communication and mitigate against possible incidents.

From ICAO:

Montréal – 4 July 2013 – The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has announced the launch of a new and improved Aviation English Language Test Service (AELTS) website (

First launched in 2011, the website for this voluntary service has been made significantly more intuitive and user-friendly, responding to ongoing feedback from the aviation English language testing community.

“Aviation English language tests are designed to measure the speaking and listening ability of pilots and controllers, a key factor in the day-to-day safety of air transport operations,” noted the UN body’s Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin.

“As aviation continues to grow, with almost 100,000 flights a day today and 200,000 daily expected by 2030, it’s imperative that ICAO continues to evolve and refine its safety support tools,” continued Benjamin. “This helps to ensure that passengers around the world can continue to look to air travel as their safest means of rapid global connectivity.”

ICAO’s AELTS directly supports the UN standard-setting body’s Doc 9835, the Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements. By measuring test performance against its Language Proficiency Requirements (LPR) criteria, ICAO is able to provide important information on test quality so that States, pilots and controllers can make the most informed selection possible when choosing a test provider. 

An international AELTS Steering Committee, comprised of highly qualified experts from States, associations and non-profit organizations, advises ICAO on best practices and provides guidance on how to develop, implement, manage and improve the test assessment service.


English has long been the common language of aviation.  Pilots and air traffic controllers of varying nationalities have been required to communicate using english.  Previously it was up to each country to create their own standard of aviation english.  However, these standards often vary and as a result miscommunication in the english language has contributed to many aviation accidents.  The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) created an international standard for language proficiency requirements including a rating scale to measure the level of english proficiency.  Of this scale, ICAO level of 4 or higher was officially recognized as being english proficient in aviation.

ICAO set an initial deadline for 2008 for pilots and air traffic controllers to achieve the minimum english proficiency of ICAO level 4.  Many countries were not able to meet the deadline so an extension was given until 2011.

The purpose of an international standard of english is to enhance global aviation safety

These english standards are generally accepted by ICAO member countries around the world.  However, each country may set their own english standards beyond what was set by ICAO.

Anyone can take the ICAO english test but pilots and air traffic controllers involved in international flight operations must achieve at east level 4 of english proficiency.  Even pilots who fly between two non english speaking countries must first pass the ICAO english test.

The ICAO english test measures the ability to speak and understand english in an aviation environment (reading english is not required).  This includes how well one can efficiently communicate routine and non routine situations both face to face and over the radio.  In particular the test measures the following:

  • Comprehension – to be able to understand english through various accents and dialects.
  • Communication – to communicate information clearly and effectively particularly during emergency situations.
  • Radio communications – communication over the radio can be very different than speaking in person.  Proper radio communication skills require the use of standard phraseology.  It also requires the ability to understand distorted english created by radio interference.

During the test the examiner evaluates the applicant based on the following areas:

  • Pronunciation – to speak english with a dialect or accent that is easy for the listener to understand.
  • Structure – grammatical structures and sentence patterns.
  • Vocabulary – the speak accurately and efficiently using the correct words.
  • Fluency – the continuous flow and rhythm of speech.
  • Comprehension – to understand and make sense of what is heard.
  • Interactions – how well one responds in a conversation.  This may include checking, clarifying or confirming information if necessary.

Each category is graded on a scale between 1-6 (1 is the lowest, high is the proficient).  The lowest score determines the final ICAO english rating.  For example, an applicant may be scored 4 for every category except comprehension where the score was 3.  As a result, the applicant will receive a final rating of 3.The international standard to be english proficient is level 4 or higher.

Those who have ICAO english level 4 must retake the exam every three years while those with ICAO english level have up to 5 years to be reassessed.  Achieving ICAO english level 6 is considered an expert level and therefore does not require a reassessment.

From AOPA Pilot:

We have received many questions about the English-proficient endorsement for pilot certificates. Pilots want us to clarify who’s affected, how to get the certificate, and clear up the confusion about the compliance date. The initial deadline was March 5, 2008, but the FAA was flooded with applications and has extended the compliance date a year—until March 5, 2009.

Pilots who fly from the United States to any destination outside of the United States, will be required to have a new certificate with “English Proficient” on it when acting as a required crewmember after March 5, 2009. This is a result of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) language proficiency standards for operating internationally.

The requirement applies to all holders of private, commercial, and airline transport pilot certificates with powered ratings, as well as flight engineers and flight navigators. If you hold an instructor certificate, it will not have an English-proficient endorsement and you do not need to order a replacement for it.

Pilots with a U.S.-issued certificate will not need to pass a language test, just obtain a replacement certificate by requesting one from the FAA. The plastic replacement certificate costs $2 and takes about two weeks for online processing, and four to six weeks for paper processing through the mail.

Here’s something to consider if you’ve been meaning to order a new certificate with a number different from your Social Security number, but haven’t gotten around to doing it. Since all new pilot certificates will automatically be issued with the endorsement, you could accomplish both things with one request—and you aren’t charged the $2 fee for a new certificate, only for a replacement.

Pilots can download the paper application for SSN removal from the FAA’s Web site for a replacement certificate ($2).

If you already have an account, just log in. If you are not yet registered, you’ll have to create an account and enter your personal information.

Place a checkmark in front of the $2 box and select “English Proficiency” as the reason. Follow the steps to receive your new certificate in about two weeks.

Nov 11, 2021

In the battle for Iwo Jima, 7000 marines were killed and 20,000 wounded.

From az central:

It's an image seared into the American consciousness.

After four days of fierce fighting on the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima during World War II, part of the United States' “island hopping” strategy to defeat the Japanese after retaking the Philippines, six U.S. Marines climb the highest peak of the 8-square-mile outpost and plant an American flag.

One helmet-clad Marine holds the post in place amid the rubble, while the others thrust the stars and stripes toward the smoke- and cloud-pocked sky; a triumphant moment captured by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

The photo would publish nationwide to great fanfare two days later on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1945, and prove that, yes, we can win the war.

Rosenthal would later win a Pulitzer Prize for Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, and the U.S. Postal Service would affix the image on a 3-cent stamp.

From my author website:

November 10, 1969

I was sitting in the Doom Club with a couple of the other Covey FACs. The weather had been especially lousy, with squall line thunderstorms over the mountains between DaNang and Laos. Because of the weather either over the target area or over our route to the AO, we hadn’t flown any missions in several days. We were getting antsy, and spent most of our time bitching. And drinking.

We were about to order another round of drinks, when in walked a Marine Lieutenant. It was Lieutenant Royce!

“Who wants to help celebrate the Marine Corps birthday?” he bellowed. I got the impression he’d already started celebrating a bit earlier.

When he saw me, his eyes lit up.

“Lieutenant! Great to see you. I have a jeep outside, and I can take five of you.”

“I’m ready!” I answered, “Let’s go.”

Three other guys joined me in piling into the jeep for a quick, albeit dangerous, drive to Camp DaNang, the Marine outpost. When we arrived we spilled out and went into the Marine Officer’s Club.

The Marines didn’t know how to live in luxury, but they sure knew how to throw a party. All the booze we could drink. All the food, great food, we could eat. Steak, lobster, shrimp. We had a ball.

Like every other time I got shit-faced drunk, I blacked out. I think I had a good time. Next thing I knew, someone was shaking me.

“Lieutenant. Wake up.” It was Royce.

I felt like crap. I lifted my head and looked around. I was on a canvas cot.

“It’s 0500 hours,” Royce proclaimed, “Let’s go for a run.”

“I, I think I’ll pass,” I responded.

“Okay. If you want to wash up, here’s a basin.” He handed me an empty helmet.

All I could think was, “You gotta be shitting me.”

I thanked Royce and hitched a ride back to DaNang. Damn, those Marines knew how to throw a party!

From Today:

A sacred part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier usually only visited by presidents and foreign dignitaries is open to the public this week in honor of the 100th anniversary of the memorial dedicated to America's unidentified war casualties.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza on the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia is usually reserved for the sentinels who stand guard and presidents and other dignitaries presenting a wreath or flowers.

Ahead of Veterans Day on Thursday, the American public is being given the chance to step forward on the plaza and pay their respects by placing flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The special opportunity is available on Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST by registering online in advance.

TODAY's Craig Melvin traveled to the site of the sacred white marble sarcophagus to speak with a gold star mother who regularly visits Arlington as well as a senior member of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, known as “The Old Guard,” who keep watch day and night at the tomb.

The memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1921, after the remains of an unidentified soldier from World War I were exhumed from a military cemetery in France, flown to the United States, and buried in a ceremony officiated by President Warren G. Harding.

Remains of unidentified soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were later interred at the tomb in the 1950s. The remains of a Vietnam War veteran were buried there in 1984, but they were exhumed in 1998 and buried at a Missouri military cemetery at the request of the soldier's family after he was positively identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, according to the Arlington National Cemetery website.

Cindy Chip, whose son Sgt. Michael Hardegree died while serving in Iraq in 2007, is among the more than 12,000 people who have signed up so far to lay flowers at the tomb on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We don’t know that soldier’s name," she told Craig on TODAY Tuesday. "We don’t know anything about him except that he was an American soldier and he gave his life for his country. And we will never forget him.

"And every mother in her heart, that is what we want to say. Just don’t forget them. Just don’t forget that he lived. And that’s what that tomb says to me. This country will never forget it."

From my author website:

Saying Goodbye To A Friend

Posted on April 15, 2015

I buried a friend yesterday. At this age, that’s not terribly unusual. What made this different is that Rick Chorlins was killed 45 years ago, and his remains have finally been brought home.

Rick and I were close when we were cadets at the Air  Force Academy. Then, in 1967, graduation sent us in different directions, and we didn’t meet up again until late 1969. I was stationed at DaNang Air Base, South Vietnam, and had wangled a good-deal trip to Thailand for a few days. I was going to go for an orientation ride on a C-130 Airborne Command and Control Center (ABCCC), call-sign Moonbeam. It was a chance to get away from the unrelenting nightly rocket attacks, and see locals who were not burdened by war and who knew how to smile.

I arrived at Nakon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, called NKP, and headed to the Officers Club. And there, standing at the bar, was Rick, along with another classmate I hadn’t seen in over two years, Bob Moore. Meeting up with old friends after a long time is always fun. Running into them unexpectedly on the other side of the world is really special. We hung around together the entire night. After a few drinks, we had dinner, then went back to their hootch and caught up with what had been happening in our lives. We had all gotten married since we last saw each other. Rick had gotten a Master’s Degree. Bob had become a father. We swapped war stories. I told them what it was like to be a Forward Air Controller, and they told me what it was like to fly the A-1 in combat.

Truth be told, I felt like I was the kid and they were the grown-ups. I was flying a dinky little O-2A Skymaster, while they were flying the Skyraider, a gigantic, fire-breathing tail-dragger with a round engine that carried thousands of pounds of bombs under its wings and dueled with enemy gunners for a living. They were real fighter pilots. After hours of shooting down our watches with our hands, we said our good-byes and vowed to get together again, at some unknown time in the future. Great guys.

If you’ve read Hamfist Over The Trail, this story might sound familiar. Chapter 28 is the fictionalized account of my meeting up with Bob and Rick. Dave and Dick in the book are the fictional characters representing the real-life Rick and Bob.

Bob was killed the next week . A few months later, Rick was shot down and he was listed as KIA, but his remains were not recovered.

Until now. After 45 years, Rick came home. His remains had been discovered in Laos in 2003 and sent to Hawaii, where DNA testing finally confirmed it was Rick.

Rick was buried at the Air Force Academy cemetery with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, a missing-man fly-by, and the solemn playing of Taps. Generals presented flags to his two surviving relatives, his sisters, Cheryl and Toby.

Then we all gathered together at a restaurant to tell Rick stories. And we all had a really great time, reminiscing about Rick’s great sense of humor, his intelligence, and his dedication to duty. It was a great Celebration of Life.

And it was also a solemn reminder of the sacrifices the families of servicemen faced, and continue to face, when they send their loved ones off to war. They wait at home, never knowing if the sound of the closing car door in the street is a neighbor coming home or a military staff car with a Colonel and a Chaplain coming to bring news that will change their lives forever. That happened 58,286 times during the Vietnam War.

Eighteen on my classmates were lost in Southeast Asia. Five have still not been found.

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