When I left high school for the College of the Holy Cross a lifetime ago, I was sure I wanted to become a Marine Corps infantry officer. When I tried to enroll in officer candidate school, I was told the only remaining slots were allocated for future flight students. I passed a battery of tests I didn’t give a damn about in order to qualify. The recruiter assured me I could decline the option of flight school when the time came, so I signed. After my freshman year, I summered in the sweaty confines of Quantico, Virginia at officer candidate school. It only took a few sleepless nights in the mud, endless hikes with way too much gear, and one too many MREs to realize I would be holding onto that flight school slot for dear life.
Despite zero flying experience before showing up, flight school proved a natural fit. The only real challenge was not drowning during the mile-long flight suit swim. Fortunately, my skills in the cockpit far exceeded those in the pool. And the relative ease of the flight syllabus allowed me to take full advantage of all that Pensacola, Florida had to offer (I got more than my money’s worth out of my Seville Quarter membership card). By virtue of finishing at the top of my class, I was afforded the opportunity to fly AH-1W Supercobras at Camp Pendleton, CA. Five years later, I was selected to join HMX-1 and fly Marine One. After five more, I swapped my green flight suit for CAL FIRE’s blue one. It’s been a helluva ride – one I hope will last for another two decades before I hang up my flight helmet forever.
I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and learned a lot over the past 20 years. To say I’ve lived to the fullest and pushed the occasional bound would be an understatement. After receiving so much good fortune during my aviation career, I’ve reached a time in my life where I’d like to give something back. The best way I know how is to share my insights. Aviation safety is my professional passion, something I’ve taught in the classroom for ten years. The lessons I convey are crystalized by my own flying and the accidents I investigate. Of course I want Any Clime and Place to raise important questions and attempt to answer them. But equally important is to entertain – mostly at my own expense. You’re welcome.