Hired 6/19/1967 (#22833)
Retired 12/2/2003 from FDX
My Tiger Tales
I was Born during WWII on December 2, 1943 in Van Nuys California. My father was away in the Army Air Corps and my mother rode a bicycle to Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank where she was an inspector in the radio test lab.
I grew up mostly in SOCAL around the LA and Palm Desert/Indio areas. Involved with my father's business of low budget film productions for many years, I also was a working musician who played the night clubs such as the infamous Whisky-A-Go-Go and Pandora's Box along Hollywood's Sunset Blvd.
In a rather strange twist of fate... In 1953, I was cast as a child actor in a couple of television documentary films. One about the life of Conrad Hilton, while another was about the the life of our own Robert W. Prescott. Little did I know at the time, I would years later, join the ranks of Bob Prescott's beloved Flying Tiger Line as a pilot.
Quitting by bottom feeder DC-3, C-53, DC-4 co-pilot job to report for my Tiger new hire class on June 19 1967, my life would change forever. First as a newbie co-pilot on the Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation all the way eventually to Captain on the B-747 then after FedEx acquired Flying Tigers finishing out my days as a FedEx DC-10 Captain until the then mandatory retirement age of 60 loomed up on me in December of 2003 and it was all over.
*A few high points of my career worth mentioning might be that once while on furlough working as a Flight Instructor/charter pilot out of Van Nuys I used to have coffee in the mornings with the late Francis Gary Powers of the CIA U2 fame. Gary was a great guy who was flying traffic report for KGIL AM radio station as I recall. Another time I was called upon to hop over to Santa Monica to pick up Mr. & Mrs Robert Mitchum along with the British actress Sarah Miles for a mysterious man named “Paul” who chartered the flight requesting they be picked up in a shiny new Shrike Aero Commander. I briefly introduced myself to Bob Mitchum as Archie Hall and that I would be their pilot for Paul. Mitchum “Archie Hall” why do you suppose that name rings a bell with me? I answered, well Mr. Mitchum that was your character’s name in a film you did for Jack Webb in 1961 where you played my father with France Nguyen. Mitchum winked and smiled.
The mysterious Paul on the phone turned out to be none other than USAF Brigadier General Paul Tibbets, (B-29 pilot of the Enola Gay) I was prepared to stay overnight within the plane at the airport or in a nearby motel but General Tibbets came over and told me to lock the plane and get into the limo as I was invited to his home as well!
A few year prior before I was hired by Flying Tigers I found myself also on furlough, this time I was flying DC-3 copilot for Poddy Mercer out of Burbank. We had a maintenance problem with the DC-3 on NAS Point Magu. It was a rainy Christmas Eve about midnight before I secured the plane at Burbank and was walking through a dark hangar to get out to where my VW was parked when I saw a flashlight inside the cockpit of a Piper Super Cub and monetarily thought a thief might be stealing radios or something so I crept over closer trying to not make any noise and I started a man in the Cub. I immediately was embarrassed recognizing him to be not a thief but actor and Brigadier General Jimmy Stewart. He had a large house party and said he wanted to come out to check that he did not forget to turn off the battery switch on his Cub mostly but also laughingly a noisy house party gave him an excuse to get away from too much noise. We talked for quite a while and I told him I had just applied for a job at Flying Tigers. I remember he shook my hand in parting saying Flying Tiger Line is a good company I wish you good luck with your flying son.
After retirement I returned to sitting around the house playing guitar. Thinking my flying days were over and was a bit bummed out at times, wishing I could somehow be flying something other than an occasional antique or Experimental. Be careful what you wish for as in a few months I was headed to Flight Safety in St. Louis for training to fly the Rockwell Sabre "65" Sabreliner for a Florida citrus company who had a long standing business in the US and Japan. I flew the Sabreliner mostly domestic with an occasional run to Costa Rica, Mexico or The Bahamas until financial problems beset the owner forcing him to sell his jet.
In recent years I’ve not done much flying. I sold my little Experimental Thorp T-18 moving on to other endeavors but have kept my Flight Instructor’s credentials current even though I’m not actively flying. I’ve instead co-written a Hollywood script with a writer friend in Japan and was in preproduction as a first time producer to produce a short teaser trailer action adventure film with some talented folks such as Eric Roberts, Bai Ling and Director Michael S. Rodriguez but sadly had to cancel production because of onset of COVID-19.
Last year I was greatly honored to have been asked by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn to go to the famous Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis to rerecord some old songs of mine from the 1960s with a handful of awesome studio musicians.
All in all I have no regrets. I’ve had a good ride so far and I know I was damn lucky that I was hired by Flying Tigers and had the good luck to ultimately end up with FedEx, both are great companies, but Flying Tigers in comparison was a very special being so small, so close knit. We were all like family. Who each and every member deeply loved the company. I realize I’ve been truly blessed with the opportunity to fly some great iconic aircraft to some of the most far off and exotic places imaginable.
For many years I thought my time in aviation came too late. I envied the earlier pilots of the 1920s, 1930s and of ourselves WWII. Lost in the pages reading Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery I felt aviation was now too modernized through computers and such. But I now realize that my era is now looked upon a the “old days” and aviation never remains static my time came and went and I shall always savor every moment
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