Unable to fly for the military because of a dodgy left eye, I became a foreign correspondent for UPI in France, West Africa, Belgium and Italy at the age of 22. Followed a stint at the Washington Post during Watergate. (Bernstein still owes me at least a carton of cigarettes)
As a freelancer, I then wrote a book, SOUND OF IMPACT – The Legacy of TWA # 514, and moved to Colorado where I taught journalism & creative writing, skied (a lot) and wrote a column for the Vail Trail. Then came five years of odd jobs in Spain, most of them in no pasa na’, tio Andalusia (the girls were pretty, and the horses fast), years that taught me durable lessons about loyalty, fighting bulls, and the uneasy balance, and perspectives, of a civil war’s narratives.
On my 38th birthday a young CFI bet me he could teach a monkey to fly in 3 weeks. He won. My FAA private ticket (20 March 11 April 1988) was followed by basic & advanced aerobatics sign off in France on a CAP 10b under the friendly wing of Marcel Charollais (he took me to an air show in Salon de Provence where I apparently saw Marianne fly).
FAA MEII + seaplane ratings were followed in short order, as did a job as head of aerobatic and tail wheel training for The University of North Dakota’s China & Gulf Airlines’ ab initios. Up there, north of Fargo, WW2 & Vietnam vets also taught me to fly helicopters in blowing snow at night. An engine failure in a CAP 10 also convinced me to be wary of any plane coming out of maintenance… and to fly tight traffic patterns.
I then headed south as a consultant pilot and, later, Programs Manager for Sabreliner on their EFS (Enhanced Flight Screener) program. When the US Air Force stupidly (ah… Regan-Thatcher politics) chose the T-67 Slingsby instead of our SIA Marchetti SF-260E, I moved across the ramp at Spirit of St Louis Airport to work for Jim Bede of BD 5 and BD 10 fame. On weekends, I taught aerobatics in my old Super Decathlon N1223E, and flew the occasional tired ex-crop dusting Stearmans. When BD Jet went bust, I headed to Florida where old acquaintances Montaine Mallet and Daniel Heligoin hired me to upside-down instruct at their school, Mudry Aviation, while they flew airshows as The French Connection.
You can read a version of how Marianne and I then met, married, divorced, and finally created the CAPTENS in her bio.
Now, after more than 6000 hours in the sky (95% of it stick & rudder) and much of it inverted or in C-180 or Super Cub on or around glacier and alpine meadows, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no ‘alternate reality’ in aviation. Gravity always applies. And I like that; it keeps things simple, clean and true.