AF Reserve Safety—Back Then: A Detailed Retrospective

By Thomas A. Duke, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret)

After five years as Chief of Safety of the Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, in 1977 I got lucky and was chosen to become the Director of Safety for the Air Force Reserve Command headquartered at Warner Robins AFB, Georgia.  It was both a culture and a mission shock. 

At Malmstrom, we had mostly 19-year-olds in extreme weather conditions ensuring safety for four hundred nuclear missiles. The effort required a fleet of nine hundred vehicles driving over three thousand miles in an area twice the size of the state of Maryland. On the other end of the spectrum, AFRES required making life safe for veteran volunteer flyers in a variety of aircraft and missions in more than forty units all over the country.  

Getting up to Speed 

My predecessor was a regular Air Force lieutenant colonel and former Sam Fox Pilot. My staff was comprised of experienced veterans, including several regular Air Force officers. 

I had been briefed that my three numbered air force directors of safety were all long-time safety people. They were helping to revise the command safety guidance manuals to standardize all the unit programs, regardless of aircraft mission and gaining command.  Their goal was to have helicopter, fighter, gunship, tactical airlift, rescue, air evac, tanker and associate airlift units to all follow the same AFRES guidance for safety program management and accident investigation training. 

After calling these folks and introducing myself, they all agreed to come to headquarters for a visit with an aim to organize our program manual’s finishing touches to eliminate or integrate varying gaining command regs. After a week of trimming and rewrites, the new program was complete save for some inter-command coordination and editing.  My ninety word a minute secretary and some of her friends prepared a beautiful new regulation for submission and approval at the USAF Safety Center. After their few organizational changes, it was approved and blessed.  A year or so later, AFSC caught the bug and reorganized the USAF regs to blend in with our format and ideas.

One of my early tasks was to phone and meet all forty plus unit safety people, and try to assemble safety records for each of them.  I simply wanted to know when their last accident was and how many they had experienced in the last ten years.  We then established a list for use at accident briefings and public announcements. 

I was astonished that some units, notably Chicago, had not had an accident years since 1947, the year the unit was formed.  I also noted that the command had only two accidents in calendar year 1977, and was informed by the staff that my predecessor had initiated steps to apply for the Daedalian Trophy for best USAF Command Safety Award.  We looked up the requirements for submission and had the information ready to apply early at the beginning of the year.  Two accidents was very low and beat all other major USAF commands.  With our excellent unit programs, new safety manual and excellent record, we had a chance to do what had never happened before–out do the Major Commands and win that award. 

Among the benefits of this headquarters safety job was the privilege of visiting units and flying their missions.  All the unit safety officers were instructor pilots having completed flight safety school at the University of Southern California, and were full time civilian GS-13 employees and usually at least majors in the reserves.  Once a month, General Lyon, the AFRES Commander came down from the Pentagon to meet with the staff.  After only two weeks on the job, he personally asked me to go to Homestead AFB to fly their elderly Connies on a mission and local flight to get a feel for how they were doing.  Unknown at the time, the unit was forecast to convert from the recon mission to F-4 fighters, a huge task.  I drove non-stop to Miami and went on to Homestead to see how a reserve Connie Recon unit worked.  

Flying Again 

After meeting the commander and safety officer, I was given a tour and walk-through of the aircraft.  They set me up for a mission that was to fly off the coast of Cuba that night. The flight orbiting off the Cuban north coast lasted six hours; I had a short time in the seat and a lot of time observing the back-end crew.  It was a very good experience. I also learned about an additional aspect of their mission, deploying aircraft and crews for up to a month to Keflavik, Iceland to patrol the North Atlantic for Russian shipping, submarines and air traffic.  I did not envy those crews… it was very busy and exacting work.  I slept well when we returned and was scheduled to fly a local flight for the next afternoon. 

My safety officer was the instructor; he had one pilot requiring currency and then it was my turn.  As I was able to watch the routine from the cockpit, I learned the differences from the baby Connie I had flown more than 12 years ago at Andrews before getting into the seat.  We were shooting touch and gos at Key West.  Shortly after my takeoff on my first touch and go, we heard a loud bang on the fuselage near the nose.  The flight engineer had seen some gulls flying nearby and we assumed we hit one.  After a full stop landing, he took a walk outside and saw a pretty good dent in the fuselage.  Sadly, we had to return to Homestead, but I did get three pretty good landings in the super Connie and it felt great to be back in the saddle again.  A month or so later, I found out the aircraft I had flown was not going to be repaired and was sent to Tucson for scrapping.  

Meanwhile, things were going well at the office.  I found a great replacement candidate in my flight safety position who arrived around Thanksgiving.  F.O. White had been both a maintenance officer and flight safety officer at our Kelly C-130 unit in San Antonio.  He was a very effective safety program manager for us.  Fortunately, we finished the year with no more accidents and had plenty of time to get things done.  I was invited to lunch at the Officers Club by one of the senior staff and was encouraged to join the local Daedalian Chapter.  There I met some more people from my past, among them the deputy base commander I first met transiting Tachikawa, Japan while flying Old Shakey out of Hickam. 

I was also able to visit our C-130 and C-7 Carabao unit in Marietta, Georgia and the Chicago C-130 unit with the perfect safety record.  The Chicago folksI flew with, mostly airline co-pilots, were highly proficient at that very busy airfield.  I had the privilege of addressing them at their monthly safety meeting and congratulated them for their outstanding safety record and program.  By the end of the year, I had several items in mind for inclusion in the submission for the Daedalian Trophy for the Air Force Reserve Command for 1977.  We also decided to have our annual Command Safety Conference in Warner Robins the following May.   

By early spring, we had sent in our application for the Daedalian Trophy and had our new AFRES Safety manual distributed.  My staff also sent out our annual “get ready for inspection checklist” to all our safety people and assured them all safety “visitors” would use it (and perhaps more), even those in their gaining command such as MATS, SAC and TAC.  Our AFRES staff all attended the Reserve Officers Association Conference in Washington and I had a chance to meet with all the Reserve Commanders. I also had a chance to meet with John Scott, my cadet, Brookley and Andrews buddy who was serving as the first black investigator in charge at the National Transportation Safety Board.  We visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall together and he agreed to ask his superiors if he could make a presentation at our annual safety conference at Warner Robins in May.  


By the time the Warner Robins Safety conference came around, we learned we were the winners of the Daedalian Trophy and that General Lyon had the honor of accepting it at the reward ceremony of all major flying command commanders.  The trophy was on display at headquarters and was shown off at our conference downtown at the Holiday Inn.  Scotty’s presentation covered many recent civilian airliner accidents with meaningful lessons and recommendations easily applied to the military mission. That evening, we had a banquet with the AFRES staff in attendance. Our guest speaker was General Lyon who congratulated all present.  Meanwhile, I had a chance to schmooze with almost all the unit safety officers and we had a very productive conference.  On the way home, several of them had to go through O’Hare and thankfully none were aboard the American DC-10 that had an engine fall off on takeoff, crashing and killing many and bringing about another lesson in maintenance practice we could apply to our mission. 

I had another chance to go to Homestead AFB when AFRES held its commander’s conference there.  I once again mingled with the leaders of the command, gave my status briefing to them and showed off the trophy.  We’d had our first accident since I had taken over the reins, and encouraged all to look for problems before they occur.  On our free afternoon, I bought a ticket for a fishing trip.  I had never experienced that kind of sport and when it was my turn to take the reel, I caught a barracuda that was dangerous to even touch.  Upon returning to shore, I had my picture taken and was advised I had caught the biggest fish that day. At the banquet that night, I received the coveted trophy, though I was the most junior guy there. Those annual conferences became a favorite trip the rest of my tour even though I had to brief many more accidents.  

Another another trip to Homestead came up within a year.  General Bodycombe asked me to join him in the sad task of ferrying the last Connie to the Tucson Boneyard.  The flight was memorable; I sat in the right seat for about six hours helping with the airways reporting duties.  General Bodycombe chose to make the final landing at Davis-Monthan.  I warned him that with all the equipment stripped from the rear of the airplane, the nose would be heavy and he might need to pull back on the yoke more than he had been accustomed to.  I was right; he made a fairly hard landing, a fini-flight final landing for a great aircraft.   

I was privileged to attend many other conferences.  I especially enjoyed the National Guard conferences where I met many more friends in the business, a large number of whom would go on to become commanders.  The Guard’s Director of Safety had been a POW in Hanoi and had some interesting tales to tell.  His flight safety officer was also a very helpful friend, letting me in on their problem accidents.  He was a captain then and eventually would become a brigadeir general and serve as commander of the unit at Andrews during the 9/11 launching of aircraft ordered to shoot down errant hijacked airliners.  

At an Air Force level safety conference, I met the current Commander of the Safety Center and asked if he would like to address our upcoming commander’s conference at Homestead.  He had been a reservist and guard pilot in the period following WWII and understood and enjoyed being with reserve people.  He gladly attended and stayed more than one day to meet and greet.  He was very complimentary in his presentation and had a great time. 

That year, AFRES did not have a very good record as we lost three fighters and one tactical airlift aircraft.  We still submitted our application for the Daedalian Trophy, and to our great surprise and enjoyment, won the trophy again.  I heard later, it was a close call and the Air Force Safety Center leader had the last word on the winner.  He liked the way we handled the lessons and results of the mishaps and addressed safety in general as a command.

By then, General Lyon had relinquished his AFRES command to General Bodycombe so this time, my deputy commander and I attended the annual Daedalian conference, wore our mess dress uniforms and received the award.  We later visited a C-130 unit in Colorado and I got to fly on one of their local flights.  On that trip, my new boss asked if I’d like to get checked out to fly with one of our units.  I thought it was a great idea, and was assigned to Keesler to fly the Hurricane Hunter C-130s and was soon off to training. 

C-130 Training 

The summer of 1980 was the hottest I can ever remember, wherever I went.  There were twenty straight days of over 100 degree weather in Macon.  I was at Little Rock for two weeks of ground school where it was over 100 degrees as well.  I received flight training in Philadelphia and it was over 100 degrees again.  When I finally got to Biloxi it wasn’t 100 degrees any more, but the weather was challenging.  I was checked out, but still awaiting mission training and check out when hurricane hunting was expected.  Meanwhile, I found I had developed melanoma and had to air evacuted back to the large hospital at Keesler for further surgery.  The operation and threat of further metastasis grounded me for a year and lead to possible early medical retirement. It took the deputy Surgeon General of the Air Force to agree to keep me on active duty and let me fly again, though I was only permitted to in aircraft without ejection seats. I also found out the FAA continued my commercial flying ticket and later my ATP privileges. A happy but humble camper, I headed back to Keesler for recurrency training. 

Back Flying Again 

I did not mind having the non-ejection seat limitation.  I had already flown the A-37 at Barksdale and passed their ejection seat training before going on a gunnery mission.  Just after liftoff, the number two engine compressor stalled and had to be shut down.  The pilot handled all the emergency procedures and made all the radio calls for an emergency landing. I sat there dumbfounded and thankful we did not have to eject. 

The powers that be in the unit decided I better get airborne that afternoon and quickly scheduled me on another target range mission which went off smoothly. I even got to fire the guns, but I admit I knew little of how the pilot found Barksdale without using radio aids.  At heart, I was an IFR pilot.  I also had another exciting A-37 flight on a short hop from Robins to Shaw AFB with a safety officer to brief the commander of 9th Air Force on an A-37 accident.  He let me make the approach and landing. I dropped it in a few feet. The briefing went well. We repeated the briefing a few weeks later at Tactical Air Command headquarters at Langley. After that briefing, a C-130 from Andrews picked me up for some short field training on a runway at Langley and then a tour of the Andrews unit.  It was back to the old sod for me and an interesting visit.   

I was able to requalify in the WC-130 at Keesler, but was scheduled to go on a mission only once.  Hurricanes are difficult to predict.  The one opportunity I had I flew in the left seat with the real mission commander in the right seat.  A hurricane was weakening as it went up off the east coast of the U.S. We headed up off the coast of Jacksonville flying north toward Norfolk.  We took readings and made our reports, finally entering what was left of the eye off the coast of Virginia.  There was very little turbulence or excitement remaining, and when we began flying over land the mission was over.  The crew dropped me at Warner Robins. My hurricane hunting day was over.  Back to the desk again. 

Some Memorable Accidents 

DAYTON, Ohio — McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

I had many other unit visits that provided a very good orientation for a former four-engined transport pilot and present safety report reviewer who needed to be familiar with a large variety of aircraft and missions.  When a canopy came off an F-4 in flight at our newly formed unit at Homestead, I arranged to go down there and see the aircraft myself. While there, I took the opportunity to fly the F-4 simulator.  At another unit we had a pilot punch out of an F-4 after experiencing “departure from controlled flight.”  Sometimes when in a sharp turn, an F-4 will go uncontrollable if the pilot uses too much rudder.  I asked to have that problem demonstrated while I was tooling along in the simulator and my instructor safety officer tried to show me how the manual says to recover. The manual also says if you have not recovered by 10,000 feet, bail out.  I was still in a flat spin and of course did not have to bail out in a simulator, and I never recovered.  They froze the sim at 10,000 feet so they would not have to go through the process of recovering the simulator after a crash.  The unit accident with the canopy loss resulted in the back seater dying while the pilot miraculously made an emergency landing.  His ejection seat jammed when partially deployed and the pilot had to stay in his seat after landing while the ground crew gingerly removed the ejection explosive charge.  That was only the second fatality AFRES had in the six years I was Director of Safety.  Our unit came up with a system wide fix for the malfunctioning canopy system. 

The only other fatality involved one of our F-105 units that had deployed to Denmark to exercise with the Danish Air Force.  During a low-level formation flight over the Baltic, a young Lieutenant apparently became momentarily distracted and flew into the water at a very high speed.  The F-105 had many high-risk tasks involving low level missions and we had several other close calls, including one where an F-105 returned to base with a power line wrapped around a wing.   

I left most of the fighter problems to my safety staffs at 10th Air Force.  My C-130 safety officer at headquarters got so involved in the fighter business he sought training and checked out in the A-37. We had a few close calls with the aging A-37s with both engines quitting.  Fortunately, the pilots were able to return to base without incident but the commanders and units themselves became so curious to find out what was going on that they arranged to have a conference at Warner Robins with all the experts they could find.  They brainstormed for several days and made up a “to do list” of possible things to check out for all their airplanes.

However, before the report was typed up and distributed, an A-37 pilot decided the right thing to do was eject because he was going to be short of the airfield before landing with both engines refusing to restart after several tries.  An accident board was formed, headed by a Tactical Air Command colonel, and a mix of TAC and AFRES members.  They were mystified, but received wind of the conference we had at headquarters and asked to see the report.  I got permission to ship it to the board chairman and they looked into every finding and located a reason why. The engines were coming loose from worn fittings and caused them to bind. They let the world know they solved the problem and all A-37s were inspected and repaired as necessary. 

We had a large tactical airlift unit at Westover AFB in Massachusetts that flew both C-123s and C-130s.  One day our safety officer was asked to test hop a C-123 after heavy maintenance.  As he leveled off at 4,500 feet, the right engine caught fire and the cabin and cockpit filled up with smoke.  As on all test hops, parachutes were aboard but stowed in the cabin.  The pilot quickly turned toward the field and started a descent while trying to put out the fire to no avail.  They declared an emergency and opened the side window to get a clear view for landing. In so doing all communications were lost with the cabin and tower as the noise was unbearable and headsets were blown off. They were able to lower flaps and landing gear.  The loadmaster in the cabin donned his parachute and believing they were going to crash and unable to notify the cockpit, he lowered the aft door and bailed out about four miles from the field.

Meanwhile, the cockpit crew miraculously made it to the runway with the engine still ablaze.  The tower saw them coming and after a successful landing the fire equipment finally was able extinguish the fire.  The parachutist hitched a ride to the base and was okay. Upon inspection, they discovered the main fuel supply line to the engine had split and had filled the nacelle with fuel and fed the fire until it was gone.  The fuel lines were changed often during the Vietnam War in an effort to keep the planes in commission.  After the war as a cost saving program the lines were to be inspected periodically and changed as necessary.  AFRES found several more brittle hoses and unilaterally ordered all of them to be changed.  The funding was made available and the manufacturing of new sets was ordered.  One of our Vietnam veteran C-7 Carabao units also checked their fuel lines and discovered they might be wise to change theirs too.  AFRES submitted our safety officer test pilot for the Korigan Kolligian Jr. Trophy for best Airmanship Reward in the Air Force for that year.  He won it easily. 

A few years later at Kelly Field in San Antonio, a reserve pilot who was a civilian contractor was flying a local when one of his engines caught fire.  The weather was near minimums when he, too, had an uncontrollable engine fire and flew a flawless approach back to Kelly, landed and came to a stop near the fire equipment so they could attempt to put out the fire.  The crew evacuated okay and the fire took several minutes to extinguish.  Just like the C-123 and Carabao, the C-130 fuel lines were overdue change.  AFRES immediately cornered all the fuel lines in the supply system and actually went into the manufacturing business with a goal of changing all fuel lines in the fleet.  The National Guard followed our lead but the Military Airlift Command would have had to ground their fleet.  They relied on frequent inspections and “fly-fail-fix” before changing their lines.  Unfortunately, about a year later, they had an uncontrollable inflight engine fire where the plane broke up in flight before they were able to land, killing all aboard.   

Our Portland, Oregon air rescue helicopter unit had a long accident free history and was very active in innovative missions.  On a rescue exercise in the high-country desert, one of their Hueys lost power and dead stick landed causing what they believed to be repairable damage.  The aircraft was eventually returned to Portland and the USAF Depot engineers assessed the damage as a destroyed aircraft, not worth repair cost.  The unit and AFRES headquarters thought differently and after much coordination found the Army routinely fixed worse cases than this and agreed if we had it shipped to Texas, they would repair it. One of our C-141 associate units at nearby McChord AFB sent an aircraft to Portland on a training mission and flew the chopper to Texas.  The Army had it flying again in a month, thus saving a critically needed aircraft and major accident for our hard working chopper folks.  

Memorable Guest Flights 

I had an opportunity to fly with our CH-3 helicopter gunship unit at Luke AFB in Phoenix.  They familiarized me with both the back end and cockpit routines.  I actually fired their gatling gun at some huge cactuses in the desert and had about an hour of stick time flying low level formation and was talked through a landing and taxi back at Luke. Even more fun was flying the C-130 gunship at Duke Field in Florida.  I toured back end where there are several cubicles with crewmembers watching different scopes that line the aircraft up with targets on the ground.  On one scope, I could actually see a person walking on the roof of a hanger used to align the equipment after takeoff. 

We flew to a target range and I watched the aircraft commander hold the plane in a 30-degree bank at exactly 6,500 feet, look through a scope to spot the target, and when all was lined up fire the cannon and see his prey disappear. The copilot is charged with calling out bank angles and keeping the airspeed and altitude steady.  They let me try it; I found it very challenging to keep on target and I fired and missed.  The unit safety officer treated me like a long lost friend and took me for a sail on the gulf.  He also showed me how to solve the rubiks cube which kept me entertained for several months.  

I had several other similar treats.  The SAC IG invited someone from my staff to join him in an inspection of our KC-135 unit in Indiana.  I volunteered and was treated to witnessing a certification of a new Aircraft Commander and an actual full alert exercise where all their aircraft took off on a huge refueling exercise with SAC bombers.  I also flew on a local mission with one of their alert crews commanded by an instructor. After refueling a couple of fighters the crew returned to base for some local training. I was seated in the left seat for the final landing.  I had not flown a KC-135 in over 10 years and had never flown this model with smaller engines and no reverse.  I flared a little bit high and plunked the landing unhappily, but brought it to a comfortable stop without reverse.  I taxied in and parked it, a real treat for a member of the SAC IG team!  The unit passed with great compliments. 

Whenever I joined our IG team for a unit inspection or went on one of our commander’s weekend visits, I was always offered the opportunity to fly on a local mission.  At McGuire AFB in New Jersey, I hopped on a new stretch C-141 for a currency flight for four pilots who were scheduled to fly for an overseas mission in the next few weeks and needed three landings and approaches.  It had a jump-seat so I could observe their procedures. Most of the pilots were airline copilots or flight engineers augmenting their salary and were all good sticks.  The last landing of the day was my turn and I found out how nice that aircraft flew and made as good a landing as the rest of them.  I also found out that I had to almost pass the turnoff taxiway before turning to keep the wheels on the pavement.   

One of my greatest treats of all was flying the C-5A at Travis AFB, California.  Crew briefing was at 0330 for a 0700 takeoff.  Preflight took several hours with several flight engineers in training and seven pilots to get three landings each.  It was a long but interesting day for the instructor pilot, who I learned was a B-727 flight engineer for Eastern Airlines in New York.  The C-5 is a huge airplane and I had plenty of time to see it all, but I spent most of my time observing the more than 20 approach and landings and touch and gos.  We were in the air so long, they served lunch.  When I finally was invited into the seat, I pretty much knew exactly what to expect, but I could not believe how easy that aircraft handled and did exactly what I wanted it to do.  My landing was among the best of the day and to my pleasure, I was amazed how peppy it handled on my touch and go takeoff.  I had to get out of the seat for the final landing because the taxi in was to be performed by one of the new pilots upgrading to the left seat.  I watched with great interest as he managed to keep all those tires on pavement in many sharp turns before cutting engines after a very long day. 

More Memorable Events 

My C-5 flight helped me appreciate the challenge for those associate reservists who fly worldwide missions along with the Military Airlift Command.  A Dover aircraft fully loaded for a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, took off and after entering clouds struck a formation of Canadian geese which immediately caused one engine failure on the right wing and soon another.  The reservist aircraft commander immediately asked for a GCA back to the field and started dumping fuel because he was well above landing weight and was now losing more power.  He performed all emergency procedures correctly and by final approach, had only two engines operating and a third one acting up.  He was able to maintain minimum rudder control speed in level flight. Turning final, he stopped dumping fuel. After breaking out lined up with the runway, he quickly slowed the aircraft down, lowered the gear and added some flaps for a smooth landing and heavy breaking with limited reverse available.  As he turned off the runway the third engine failed.  They were towed into the ramp after a most challenging flight, which had not even been taught in the simulator.  AFRES nominated the Aircraft Commander for the Kolligian Trophy and he became our second winner in five years.   

We had many very enjoyable conferences in the six years I was at AFRES.  At one in Atlanta we had a Delta pilot who had been on a long project with the Airline Pilot Association and his airline to locate fire departments where they could more quickly respond to airfield emergencies.  His work eventually resulted in FAA rules locating them at midfield rather than on a busy parking ramp near the terminals.  We also had unit presentations and visits to nearby points of interest.  At Atlanta, we visited the Lockheed plant. 

We had one conference at Lake Tahoe during the inexpensive off season where we were able to get some speakers up from the Safety Center at Norton. At Westover, we had a huge banquet of Maine Lobsters and Clams and watched an airshow put on by the local C-7 and C-130 units. 

When we arranged to have a conference at Norton, we visited the Safety Center and USC flight safety officer’s school.  One of our sessions was a presentation by Harry Hurt who taught most of us the principles of accident investigation at USC and his book Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators.  Our banquet speaker was the USAF Director of Safety.  Getting to Norton was fun for me as we were granted a KC-135 which I had flown at Andrews years before to fly seventy of us to the conference from the east coast and midwest. To my surprise, this senior lieutenant colonel was greeted by protocol on arrival and was given a VIP suite at the BOQ.   

My final trip to California at AFRES was to our new KC-10 tanker unit at March AFB.  The unit was in the early stages of forming and training.  The pilots were all trained by American Airlines in Dallas 100 percent in a very realistic DC-10 simulator.  The instructor pilot on my flight had less than 100 hours in the actual aircraft and his pilot and copilot team were on their first flight after simulator training.  This was a new modern world for me who spent months getting checked out in aircraft in my career.  These guys were to be considered mission ready after their first airplane ride. 

We planned to take off and fly east to the Tucson area where we were to refuel six National Guard F-4 fighters.  I observed how easy it was to use the autopilot for all regimes of flight.  Just turn knobs to what you wanted and the plane does the rest.  We orbited for the refuelings for about an hour and I watched from the amphitheater like seat in the aft belly. We then returned to March for the initial check ride as a crew.  They each made four landings, the aircraft commander from the left seat and the copilot from the right.  They hand flew only one approach and landing.  They did one circling approach using the USAF chart minimums, where they commented that a plane this large should not be flying a 30 degree bank only 600 feet above the ground.  As airline pilots, they noted airlines do not circle below 1,000 feet.  After the final landing, they met with the unit commander to arrange for the certification routine for mission assignments. Welcome to the modern Air Force. 

The time had come for me to retire.  While at AFRES my job had been upgraded to full colonel as was the numbered Air Force positions.  The Director of Safety at 10th Air Force, an F-4 pilot, eagerly took the job as a reservist. What Color is your Parachute strongly recommended I look for a job involving flying.  People’s Express was hiring and I passed until they reviewed my physical with melanoma on my record. I happily found a flying 707s job with the Atlanta Skylarks Air Travel Club.

I spent seven rewarding years flying charter to world-wide destinations and made it to check airman by age fifty-nine when one of our ex TWA 707s crashed in the Azores.  The airline, then called Independent Air, soon went under and I landed a job as a researcher at the NTSB and later as a freelance safety advocate.  In the next ten years I had forty articles published mostly with the Flight Safety Foundation and ALPA’s Airline Safety magazine. I had lots to tell airline cockpit crews concerning the recommendations in the committee of one thousand findings in the Gore Commission Report and the challenge to reduce fatal accidents by eighty percent in the next ten years. Happily, the airline industry’s safety record is much improved now.