The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and inspiring interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
RFT 453: Pandemic Pounds
If you're like most Americans, you've resigned yourself to gaining a few pounds over the holidays, then plan to spend the next 11 months trying to lose the weight.
But now, with the pandemic approaching 10 months, it gets worse, as many of us are stuck at home, unable (or forbidden!) to go to the gym. So naturally, we sit in front of the computer or television, and we don't get that "10,000 steps each day" exercise that we plan on completing.
Here's my story: in the year 2000, at age 55, I had gotten to the point that I was putting on a pound a month as a wide-body (pun intended!) Captain. I weighed in at 182 pounds and my waist was 36 inches. And I had tried a lot of fad diets, failed, and resigned myself to being a fat old man.
There's an expression "when the student is ready, the teacher appears". During recurrent training I was introduced to a fitness program, Body-for-LIFE, that changed my life forever. And I learned how to control my weight, fitness and health for the past 20 years. It's kind of like learning how to perform a magic trick. I currently weigh five pounds less than when I wrestled in high school!
RFT 452: Airline Pilot Jim Allen
Jim attended the University of Kansas and enrolled in Navy ROTC. Although he was promised an assignment as a pilot, he was initially assigned as a Naval Flight Officer (back seater). He flew the EA-6B Prowler out of Whidbey Island, WA. In the EA-6B, he flew combat missions in Bosnia.
After his assignment, he finally got his slot to pilot training. As a pilot, he flew the EC-3, and electronic version of the P-3. He followed that assignment as a T-34 instructor in the Naval Training Command at Corpus Christi, TX. He flew 700 hours per year. He loved being an instructor, and decided that would be his future. He flew as an instructor for 15 years, amassing 3600 hours in the aircraft.
After the Navy, Jim worked for an aerospace engineering company in Corpus Christi and flew for the Reserves. He enjoyed the environment at the engineering company, but missed full-time flying. For a short time he flew for JetBlue Airlines, but after a short time he had to leave for a family emergency.
After JetBlue, he went to Iraq as a volunteer Individual Augmentee in the reserves. He was embedded with the army looking for Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
After Iraq, he flew 10 2-month tours in Afghanistan as a contractor flying King Air aircraft. He became an instructor almost immediately.
Finally, Jim was hired by a legacy airline, where he now flies.
Jim has written his autobiography, Plans That Make God Laugh.
RFT 451: Thanksgiving Air Travel
In Ready For Takeoff Podcast Episode 413 we discussed safe air travel during this COVID-19 pandemic. I'm not going to repeat all of the information from that podcast, but want to discuss some additional information that may be useful to you if you plan to travel by air this holiday season.
Some airlines are now administering COVID tests to passengers.
Bring your own food and drink.
Consider using a security bin bag liner Bin Bag
Bring an extra N95 mask. Use eyelash adhesive.
Avoid getting close to strangers. Choose window seat, preferably in last row.
Check out your airline's safety rating.
On your return post-Thanksgiving flight, there is an increased risk that your seat-mate will be an asymptomatic carrier. According to the Washington Post, "At the county level nationwide, the average estimated risk of running into a coronavirus-positive person at a 10-person gathering is just a hair under 40 percent. That’s a pretty high number — if you take five of next week’s Thanksgiving gatherings, you can expect that a coronavirus-positive person will be at two of them."
RFT 450: The Flying Fahans
After flying planes around the world together for years, married couple Joe and Margrit Fahan co-piloted their last flight on August 13.
The Fahans have both been pilots for more than 30 years and have been co-pilots on a Delta Airbus A330-300 aircraft for the past six years.
The couple met while they were flying for the same commuter airline in New Jersey in the early 1980s. At the time, both Joe and Margrit were married to other spouses. Years later, when they were both single, they ran into each other again.
The Fahans got married in 1992 and had two sons, both of whom went on to become pilots.
The pilot couple met in the early '80s.
When the coronavirus pandemic impacted travel in the US earlier in the year, their once-busy flight schedule was almost entirely grounded. They flew just a handful of flights after mid-March.
"When COVID hit, everything shut down. It just really came to a screeching halt, especially international travel," Joe told Insider.
In July, the couple accepted an offer made by Delta Air Lines to retire early due to the lack of flights. Joe, 63, was nearing the required commercial airline pilot retirement age of 65, but Margrit, 60, still had a few years left in the career.
"I still might do something else. I am enjoying a little bit of time off here and there, but I'm looking for other opportunities," Margrit said.
The Fahans can look back on many years of co-piloting memories and stories.
The couple started their @flyingfahans Instagram account a few years ago to document their experience as married pilots. They recently posted a video marking their retirement.
In the video, the couple documented the experience of receiving a water salute, an aviation tradition to honor airline service in which fire hoses spray arcs of water over the plane.
Some people have asked the Fahans how they managed to work together as a married couple.
"We do get some people saying, 'I could never work with my spouse,'" Joe said. "My usual answer to them is: 'One day you're gonna be retired, and you'll have to get along with them then.'"
The couple is enjoying retirement but said they are open to future opportunities in aviation.
RFT 449: The Son Tay Raid
In 1970, the US had identified the names of over 500 American POWs who were being held by the North Vietnamese. Sources reported that these prisoners were being held in atrocious conditions and were being cruelly treated by their captors. That June, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle G. Wheeler, authorized the formation a fifteen-member planning group to address the issue. Operating under the codename Polar Circle, this group studied the possibility of conducting a night raid on a North Vietnamese POW camp and found that an attack on the camp at Son Tay was feasible and should be attempted.
Son Tay Raid Training
Two months later, Operation Ivory Coast commenced to organize, plan, and train for the mission. Overall command was given to Air Force Brigadier General LeRoy J. Manor, with Special Forces Colonel Arthur "Bull" Simons leading the raid itself. While Manor assembled a planning staff, Simons recruited 103 volunteers from the 6th and 7th Special Forces Groups. Based at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, and working under the name "Joint Contingency Task Group," Simons' men began studying models of the camp and rehearsing the attack on a full-size replica.
While Simons' men were training, the planners identified two windows, October 21 to 25 and November 21 to 25, which possessed the ideal moonlight and weather conditions for the raid. Manor and Simons also met with Admiral Fred Bardshar to set up a diversionary mission to be flown by naval aircraft. After 170 rehearsals at Eglin, Manor informed the Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird, that all was ready for the October attack window. Following a meeting at the White House with National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, the raid was delayed until November.
Son Tay Raid Planning
After using the extra time for further training, JCTG moved to its forward bases in Thailand. For the raid, Simons selected 56 Green Berets from his pool of 103. These men were divided into three groups each with a different mission. The first was the 14-man assault group, "Blueboy," which was to land inside the camp compound. This would be supported by the 22-man command group, "Greenleaf," which would land outside, then blow a hole in the compound wall and support Blueboy. These were supported by the 20-man "Redwine" which was to provide security against North Vietnamese reaction forces.
Son Tay Raid Execution
The raiders were to approach the camp by air aboard helicopters with fighter cover above to deal with any North Vietnamese MiGs. All told, 29 aircraft played a direct role in the mission. Due to the impending approach of Typhoon Patsy, the mission was moved up one day to November 20. Departing their base in Thailand at 11:25 PM on November 20, the raiders had an uneventful flight to the camp as the Navy's diversionary raid had achieved its purpose. At 2:18 AM, the helicopter carrying Blueboy successfully crash landed inside the compound at Son Tay.
Racing from the helicopter, Captain Richard J. Meadows led the assault team in eliminating the guards and securing the compound. Three minutes later, Col. Simons landed with Greenleaf approximately a quarter mile from their intended LZ. After attacking a nearby North Vietnamese barracks and killing between 100 to 200, Greenleaf re-embarked and flew to the compound. In Greenleaf's absence, Redwine, led by Lieutenant Colonel Elliott P. “Bud” Sydnor, landed outside Son Tay and executed Greenleaf's mission as per the operation's contingency plans.
After conducting a thorough search of the camp, Meadows radioed "Negative Items" to the command group signaling that no POWs were present. At 2:36, the first group departed by helicopter, followed by the second nine minutes later. The raiders arrived back in Thailand at 4:28, approximately five hours after departing, having spent a total of twenty-seven minutes on the ground.
RFT 448: A-10/Airline Pilot Odie Espinship
Jeff became a USAF fighter pilot flying the venerable A-10 Thunderbolt, also known as the “Warthog”. He was stationed with the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Eilson AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska.
While there, he qualified as one of the youngest 4-ship flight leaders in the entire squadron. He served as an instructor and was also combat search and rescue qualified. He won numerous Top Gun awards for air-to-ground bombing and gunnery. Due to Jeff’s outgoing, personable, always smiling, eager to please personality, his squadron mates quickly gave him his callsign “Odie” aptly named after the popular cartoon Garfield’s sidekick.
Now, few people know Jeff by his first name…but simply call him “ODIE.”
After 6 years of dedicated service in the Air Force, Odie decided to fulfill another lifelong dream by becoming an airline pilot. He began his career with Delta Air Lines in 1992, where he currently flies international routes out of Atlanta, GA.
Amid his tenure as an airline pilot, Odie also flew a 1943 T-6 “Texan ” on the airshow circuit. A tragic accident took the life of his brother, as well as the life of the pilot. This significant event in Odie’s life ignited the spark that helped create what TargetLeadership is today.
Odie has three children whom he is immensely proud of, a daughter two sons.