AviatorCast Episode 86: Steve Vihlen: Airline Cargo Pilot | Fighter Pilot | GA Lover


Today’s Flight Plan

Pilots come from all walks of life, and end up in all different kinds of careers. Some of the most coveted careers in aviation or those of fighter pilot and airline pilot.

Today’s guest, Steve Vihlen, was a fighter pilot and is now an airline pilot of 26 years, flying cargo for Fedex.

Through his career, he didn’t exactly have things easy and certainly didn’t follow the path he originally thought he would. However, through hard work, accepting opportunities, and never losing sight of his dream, he eventually got to be both a fighter pilot and later an airline pilot.

We talk to Steve as he sites out from out of his place on a grass airstrip, complete with 4 airplanes that he owns. So, don’t mind the occassional sound of an airplane flying by.


Steve Vihlen

Huge thanks to Steve for joining us. It was a blast! Looking forward to version 2.


Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.

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Chris: From RC to F16’s and 727’s to Triple Seven’s, this is AviatorCast Episode 86.

Calling all aviators, pilots, flight sim enthusiasts and aviation lovers, you’ve landed at AviatorCast! Join us weekly in our efforts to become better masters of the air through interviews, refreshers, lessons, training topics, simulator set-up, hangar talk, news, and more! Buckle up and prepare yourself for this week’s episode of AviatorCast! Preflight complete, fuel on board and flight plan filed. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires! Here’s your humble host, Chris Palmer!

Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome, aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Like many of you that have tasted flight, I find my time on the ground, well, insufficient. Flight speaks to my soul. I’m blessed to have done just a bit of it and hope I’m blessed to do much more flying in the near and distant future throughout my life.

Welcome to this the 86th episode of AviatorCast. It is my pleasure to welcome you here. As always, AviatorCast is brought to you by Angle of Attack, a flight training media production studio that I founded about ten years ago.

First, for those that haven’t been to AviatorCast before, let’s talk a little bit about what it is. AviatorCast, as you can tell with all the nerdiness you’ve heard so far is all about aviation passion. We’re very passionate about aviation here.

Above and beyond everything else, this is a place where you can come and get a dose of that aviation passion from week to week and we hope that you enjoy it.We bring on inspiring aviators on to the show. We learn from them.

We interview them and we find out about their careers, the things that they face, and what those of you out there that haven’t flown yet or looking to fly or maybe you’re reigniting the flame or really trying to get to a big goal like being a fighter pilot or flying for an airline or becoming a bush pilot, whatever it is that you can find your path to that ultimate goal. We hope that through this, through AviatorCast you are able to find that.

As always, we have a review that comes to us from iTunes. If you get your review read on the show, I will send you an AviatorCast t-shirt no matter where you are in the world. Today’s review comes from definitely a different place, a place that I actually recently visited about six months ago. It comes from Brazil.

This comes from Morris Glider from Brazil. He says, “Great to keep increasing aviation knowledge. This podcast is perfect to learn about aviation. Even if you are an experienced pilot, you will learn something listening to AviatorCast. I’m thankful for AviatorCast. I learn more everyday about aviation. I also in training my English. I’m Brazilian. Thank you, guys.”

[03:22]for your review, really appreciate it and I can’t wait to send you an AviatorCast t-shirt, a “Fly or Die” t-shirt it is, pretty cool t-shirt. Just feel free to reach out to me at me@aviatorcast.com and I’ll tell you how you can order that.

For those of you that also want one, you can review the show on iTunes, Stitcher, any of the podcast networks where I can see your review and then I randomly pick one out and share it on the show. We don’t get tons of reviews all the time so if you leave a review for the show, chances are actually pretty good that you’re going to get a t-shirt. I just love sending those out. I love doing that for you guys as a token of my appreciation. I hope you enjoy the show, too.

That’s it. Really cool. I’m excited to send a t-shirt to Brazil. My wife actually did a church mission, a mission for our church in Brazil for 18 months. It’s very near and dear to her heart. She speaks Portuguese. She loves it. We actually had some rice and beans last week, feijao they call it. Yes, near and dear to my heart, too because it is to my wife. Very cool. Excited to send it down there. I want to fly in Brazil someday. That would be fun.

We have a great Hangar Talk episode lined up for you today. This is kind of interesting. This came from a listener. He said, “Hey. My dad is really cool and has had a cool aviation career so you need to interview him.” He told me a couple of things about his dad. I’m like, “Yes. Thumbs-up. Let’s get him on the show.”

Ryan Vihlen is the listener that suggested that I interview his dad, Steve. Steve Vihlen is going to be on our show today. As just a quick preview, Steve found out he loved aviation at age six years old. He flew RC flyers when he was younger, both gliders and powered, started flying in real airplanes when he was 15. He soloed before he got his driver’s license, which is really cool.

He did his private pilot and instrument before he went in to the ROTC. He went in to the ROTC at University of Southern California (USC). Then, he went in to the military. That was always his goal. He wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force. While he didn’t get in to the Academy, he was able to eventually fly F-16’s. Also, he was an instructor in the T37 in the military.

Eventually, he moved on to the airlines where he has now flown for FedEx for 26 years in such aircraft as the 727, DC10, MD-11 and now the Triple Seven. This guy has a pretty dang cool career, a cool story. It’s really neat to be able to talk to him.

That’s a quick preview. I hope I didn’t spoil too much. It’s just a great overall interview of Steve. Let’s get right in to it. Here is Hangar Talk with Steve Vihlen.

Now, a special Hangar Talk segment.

Chris: All right, everybody. We are very honored to have a special guest with us today. We have Steve Vihlen joining us. Steve, great to have you on the show. How are you doing?

Steve: Thanks, Chris. Glad to be on the show and it’s a real privilege for me to be with you today.

Chris: You actually came to us from one of our listeners. Your son is a listener of the show. He sent me an e-mail. He said, “Hey. My has had an awesome career in aviation and he is a guy that you should interview for the show.” Before the show here, you and I were talking a little bit about your career. I can definitely give a thumbs-up to that. You’ve done a lot and we just want to get you on air to start to talk about it.

We kind of start from the beginning every time. I’ll offer the question to you. How did you fall in love with aviation? Take us all the way back.

Steve: In the very beginning…it’s my passion, flying airplanes, big and little but to take it all the way back to the very beginning, I know the year but I can’t remember the exact moment that I fell in love with airplanes. When I was a little, tiny kid, three and four years old, I wanted to be a train engineer. We didn’t talk about this before, Chris but it’s kind of fun because I have flown in my professional career with, believe it or not, train engineers. I’m glad I didn’t take that route.

When I was six years old, that’s when I first remember really being interested in it. I looked at everything airplane — airplanes in books, TV. I still remember every morning on the TV networks when they would open the airtime. It’s 6:00 or 7:00 or whatever that time was and they would play the national anthem. They would have a fighter jet of that time flying in the background. I always remember that and that was really moving.

At six years old was when I can remember I started wanting to get plastic models as gifts from my parents or from anybody, with my allowance. I always wanted to build the models, the plastic models and build them and put them together.

A few years later as time went on, I never got rid of them. They just accumulated. There was a living room in our home. Every time I complete another plastic model, it would wind up on a nail from the living room ceiling.

Chris: Oh, wow.

Steve: That’s when I first did it. It just kind of happened and I started recognizing that airplanes were pretty cool and that’s what I was interested in.

Chris: Great. How did you start to get introduced in to actually learning to fly and do that sort of thing? Probably more in your teenage years I’m guessing.

Steve: The next big jump or chapter I would say, the plastic models pretty much lasted until I started becoming interested in remote control flying airplanes. That, I can remember it specifically because I kind of got in trouble.

We lived in a town called La Habra Heights in Southern California. It was kind of a rural setting in the middle of Metropolitan Los Angeles between Whittier, Hacienda Heights and La Puente, if listeners kind of know where that is. We lived up in the hills.

One day, I was ten years old and I looked out the back. I could see, it was about a mile away up on one of the hills. In Southern California there were a lot of bald hills where there weren’t trees growing on it. I saw these specks flying around. I had a mini-bike at that time.

I hopped on my little Honda mini-bike and I wandered around the neighborhood through the streets up there and found this place and what they were were people were flying remote control model gliders. I was absolutely enthralled with that, captivated. As a result, I ended up staying all afternoon.

My mom and dad were freaking out because they didn’t know where I’d taken off on this mini-bike. Back then, maybe not as big a deal today, if a kid takes off and disappears the police would be out looking for you.

The only thing that happened with me was I got in trouble because I didn’t come back in a timely manner but it opened the door that I went back to that place all the time. It was before Christmas. For Christmas that year, I asked for a two-channel remote control set that I could have so I could build a model glider for it.

That’s where the real flying thing really started because it wasn’t a plastic model that you put together and hung up from the ceiling. It was actually something that flew. That was the next chapter. I still have remote control gliders today and then as I got a little bit older I got in to the remote control powered airplanes.

Then, when I was 15 years old, the next chapter or evolution, if you will, there was a charity event giving rides at Fullerton Airport. I was able to get a ride and I was still 15. I took this ride and I sat in the right seat and the pilot who flew us. It was a group. I think it was in a Cherokee Six.

There was a pilot and the five of us that were getting rides. I happened to get to sit in the right front seat. During the flight, he’d let me fly the airplane. God knows that was cool. I got to maintain altitude and turned a little bit. That was my first taste of actually flying an airplane.

My dad died unfortunately when I was 14 and I was an only child. It was just my mom and me. She understood my interest in flying airplanes or my interest in it. She agreed that maybe I should give it a try and start taking lessons. I started flying out of AFI at Fullerton Airport. Aviation Facilities, Incorporated I think that’s it. They’re still there today. They got me started in flying little airplanes.

I started flying when I was 15 and soloed when I was 16. I actually soloed before I got my driver’s license. It was definitely my priority.

Chris: Too cool.

Steve: Yes, it was very cool. Maybe I didn’t recognize it or appreciate that back then but looking back on that now, thinking about flying an airplane by yourself before you even had your driver’s license, it’s pretty neat.

Chris: Yes. It’s something that something that’s becoming more rare especially with some of the new student pilot rules. It’s not very likely especially if you’re on top of getting your driver’s license. I’ve always thought that was really cool when teenagers get that before their driver’s license.

Steve: It’s a cool feather in my cap I think, something that’s pretty rare and pretty kind of unusual and kind of neat.

Chris: Did you find that the RC flying helped with your initial training?

Steve: I was absolutely familiar with basic air dynamics, how flight controls worked. It absolutely played. How much? Gee, I don’t know how much it did but it certainly did some. For that matter, you could even say playing with plastic model airplanes and putting them together does something towards your education. It might be something that you don’t realize it’s going on or taking place at the moment but later it all kind of combines and makes a difference, kind of that combined experience.

Chris: Yes. I’ve always just wondered about that whether people felt like it translated over. Exactly, even just knowing the flight controls and how things move and power versus pitch and air speed and all that sort of stuff. I think it has a little bit of an effect for sure.

Steve: Right. In all those things, while you were saying that it made me think of the word I wanted to use. It’s like there are a lot of intangibles, a lot of things that you can’t put your thumb on but it all factors in to the equation when it’s all said and done.

Chris: Right, right. Almost more the underlying stick and rudder type of stuff, if anything, or controllability type stuff that isn’t necessarily taught but is something learned over time through experience.

Steve: Right. Things that you can learn and adapt to more easily like Ryan, when he listens to this he’ll get a chuckle out of this because today I’m trying to get him back into the Champ. He’s doing a great job but it’s like when you take somebody and you’re instructing them and you’re teaching them a new thing or just to refresh their memory about doing landings, for example on a tailwheel airplane like in the Champ, you do things without even thinking about them when you’re proficient.

For example, it came up when you’re teaching somebody to ride a bike, how do you do that? How do you teach somebody to balance on a bike and turn at the same time without falling over? It almost doesn’t make sense. You almost can’t tell somebody that. It’s kind of the same thing in airplanes. You can talk about the basics but there’s no substitute for going out there and just having a rough day and skinning your knees, so to speak. You just got to learn how to do it through experience and practice.

Chris: Yes. Yes, very true. Take us from there. Where did you go after solo?

Steve: From solo, I think the natural progression was that I wanted to continue with this thing. This has come up in discussions with friends and people about how do you stack your ratings, how do you go through the whole process. After I got my private, I got my instrument and did it on a 172.

I think most people would agree, that have been through this that the most valuable rating that I ever had and the experience I gained from it was obtaining my instrument rating. It could be said about learning in a high traffic environment like Southern California, those pilots that are out there listening to this would I’m sure they recognize if you learn in the Chicago area or the Southern California area or the New York area, it’s different than flying like where I’ve been in rural Tennessee for the last 25 years.

Being able to talk on the radio is something you learn from day one while getting your instrument rating in the Metropolitan Los Angeles area was a pretty heady proposition.

Chris: Right. I can totally imagine that. I’d flown to Southern California a little bit. It’s just a different animal entirely.

Steve: I think if I’ve never had that kind of training and I flew my self even just a VFR flight into Southern California, it would be totally intimidating.

We were talking about the different phases along the way. When I was younger, backing up a little bit, we had talked about what factors made a difference in my life towards following this path. That was, well I had encouraging parents. After my dad passed away, my mom was 100% behind me and what I was interested in doing with my flying career. So much appreciation certainly goes towards her in how she did that.

Her brother also was the mentor that I had that was a connection to professional flying. This was probably in my middle school years when I was flying the model airplanes but hadn’t got quite to the point where I was flying real airplanes yet. He had flown in the 1950’s and the 1960’s as a contract pilot for various companies like Lufthansa and Japan Airlines after the war, for example. He flew BC-6’s with Transocean from Oakland to Honolulu. Really a very interesting flying career that he had.

He was the one that would talk about his flying stories. That was really a connection to somebody that really did it. I always look back and think back about how he had kind of showed me things that I think most people might not have the privilege of being introduced to and certainly at that young age.

Chris: Yes, definitely. When you talk about your mother being very supportive and also your uncle, I think of those that aren’t really supported in this or at least maybe they don’t have or don’t know of people that they can reach out to for that support. What would you say to those sorts of people that are out there that need that support?

Steve: Everybody in general and specifically for folks like that out there, guys and gals that have this desire, this something and I really think it’s something special or it may be, I’m sure it’s true in other careers. Of course, flying is what I know intimately.

There’s this desire in your heart that you want to do this more than anything else in the world. It may just be a little bit easier. You might get introduced to it a little sooner because you have these contacts but I truly believe that if somebody has that desire and that dream of flying airplanes, they’re going to make it happen.

There are and probably I think more so today than ever before with the internet and social media, there’s contact. There are various ways to bring people together of a common interest where they can find that person that can introduce them to flying or help them in a difficult place where they’re trying to make that transition to the next level of flying. There are just, I really think, so much more out there.

Probably if I was to offer a suggestion or advice is that never quit trying. Always strive to make it to where you want to go. Even though I had help in the early years in the way I got to where I was, there were certainly challenges along the way. The point about following that dream and never giving up and being as focused and keeping your eye on the ball and never giving up, it was never more true for me in the later years through college and then through the Air Force and so on.

There has never been points in my time, at least in the early years, that I didn’t have to really, really try and remind myself that this was really truly what I wanted to do because the challenges got so great sometimes that I thought, “How is this ever going to happen?”

Chris: Right, right.

Steve: This whole thing called flying airplanes and actually being paid for it, it just seemed like it was insurmountable. I could talk about many instances. Maybe that’s a good way to lead into that and help other folks that are trying to follow the path that I have.

Chris: Yes. I think it certainly is because from here on out, now you as a teenager you’re thinking more of the future and your school is talking more about college and things like that. As a student body, everyone is thinking about the future. Where was your mind going at that time and what was your preparation like for the next steps?

Steve: Oh, that’s a great lead in for that. Yes. In high school when I really started to think about college and ultimately a career and I wanted to fly airplanes. How do you do that? In high school at that point in time, the Air Force is what I had thought of. I think if I would have had somebody in the family that was Navy, maybe I would have ended up in the Navy or in the Army flying their fixed-wing or rotary wing or what have you.

For me, I know my mom had mentioned this before and it had made sense to me at the time as a kid in high school that if you want to fly airplanes, you go to the Air Force. If you want to do other things, there are other choices in the other services. That is way too focused because there are wonderful flying careers in every branch of the military.

Chris: Right.

Steve: It really just boils down to what you want to do but that was my mindset at the moment was that’s what people were saying. My mom said that. I thought, “Gee. That does kind of make sense,” so that’s where I went.

Chris: Got to listen to Mom.

Steve: Right, right. Yes. The Air Force, I naturally thought, “The Air Force Academy, that would be the way to go.” Of course, knowing now or knowing then what I know now there are a lot of different ways to find your path towards a commission and a flying slot. Also, I think it’s really important that everybody understands it. There are so many different ways or so many situations and timing that play in to this whole equation. It’s so much easier for some people sometimes and in a different point in time it can be very difficult.

For me, I decided that, going through high school, I’m going to apply to the Air Force Academy. I’m not a technically minded person. Let me rephrase that. I’m technically minded but I certainly don’t have the aptitude as some do in math and science.

If that’s the next thing I could tell everybody that you do not need to be a genius at math or a genius in science. I think this is more focused for the younger group out there that are thinking of these things because yes, I did okay in math but in math and science in high school I was a B and a C student.

Overall in high school, I was about a 3.5 GPA and I did an average at the SAT and college testing. I found out that and it does make a difference where you are in the country. In my congressional district when I was applying for the Air Force Academy and there are several different ways you can obtain your appointment. The path I chose was a congressional appointment.

Every congressman and I think it’s still the same today has five slots that they have over a five-year period. There was one slot that my congressman had. In my Southern California district, there were 45 guys competing for that one slot. How tough is that? Everybody and it wasn’t me but there were, I can certainly say there were a lot more guys with a 4.0 and a very high SAT and ACT score, very high as compared to what I did. The bottom-line was I didn’t even have a chance of getting that appointment to the Air Force Academy.

I was very disappointed. This was probably one of my first big hurdles. I thought, “This is just not going to happen. How am I going to do this if I can’t go to the Air Force Academy?” I even had nightmares about it. Then, I started settling down. I started thinking about other commissioning options. The Air Force ROTC option came up. To make the long story short, I ended up choosing USC probably because I had several family members that went to USC and I was able to get in. I did the four-year ROTC program there.

Chris: Perfect.

Steve: That was how I got in to that. That’s how that one chapter ended. Then, the next chapter was going through four years of college. I can remember at the very beginning of college, the freshman and sophomore going, “I just don’t really like this college experience.” I guess I wasn’t a very good student.

If truth be told, it wasn’t that I wasn’t a good student. It was the part that I wasn’t a good student in the subjects that I was taking — Korean History and Literature of the 1800’s. Really, things like that I had no interest in. I wanted to fly airplanes and that was what it was.

I’m not trying to play down education because it’s certainly not what I wanted. My goal when I was going through college was simply to graduate with a high enough GPA that I could be awarded a pilot slot in the Air Force and go to pilot training. Really, it was the means to the end was just graduate so I can go to pilot training.

Chris: Right, right. Having a goal like that is obviously very helpful to have. “This is my benchmark. This is what I have to get to.” Do you strive for that? Because honestly, it’s interesting how similar my story is, not that I went into the military but just the fact that I was a slightly above-average student.

I worked hard in subjects I didn’t like but didn’t always get to where I’d be getting a 4.0 or whatever but man, when I came to the flying stuff, my brain turned on for some reason. I think that’s just because that passion and desire was there and it just brought me up to a whole different level.

Steve: I truly believe that’s a large part of it but I also, through my experience as an instructor over all these years also and seeing lots of different pilots, I do believe a lot of it can be taught but there certainly are a group of pilots that have a natural talent, that just have great hands.

Chris: Right.

Steve: It’s interesting. It runs the whole gamut. Everybody can be a fine pilot but it’s interesting in my experience I have met these truly gifted pilots, too. Having that strong desire, in many ways you make the good luck for yourself in that you do well because of your interest and desire.

Chris: Right. Precisely. I’m certainly not a prodigy. I certainly don’t have great skills. I certainly don’t consider myself a really good pilot or anything but it’s that desire that gets me in the books and keeps me pushing forward that I think everyone needs to find within themselves based on their own personal challenges and the way that they learn just depends on the individual really.

Steve: It would have been a whole lot tougher for me going through college if I did not have that goal of graduating, that carrot on the stick at the end of graduation but find a way somehow to get through college. If I didn’t have the flying, I don’t know what it would have been.

Chris: Great.

Steve: I guess I’d be doing something different.

Chris: Yes. Yes. Take us from there. You did ROTC at USC and then I’m guessing you went to Officer Candidate School after that.

Steve: No. Actually of the three ways to a commission, it’s either the Air Force Academy, ROTC or Officer Candidate School.

Chris: Oh, okay. I didn’t know that.

Steve: Yes. Since I did the four years, it just worked out the easiest. Let me back up and say that it doesn’t matter how you get it and my story is certainly an example of that whether you go and get your commission as far as the military in the Academy, ROTC or you don’t know what you want to do and you go get your degree somewhere in something.

Then, you get a nomination to go to Officer Candidate School and get a pilot’s slot because you score high enough in the pilot portion of the testing, it doesn’t matter because whatever you end up doing, if it’s flying, it doesn’t matter how you do it.

Chris: Right. I think most people would agree with that.

Steve: Right, right. Another thing, to back up to my college experience and it’s so much the timing. At the time, I started college in, I guess it was fall of 1975 and I graduated in May of 1982. In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president and bumped up the spending a whole bunch and a lot of pilot slots were created and I think it was across all branches of the military. I think it was.

I was just very lucky in that so many opportunities were presented in the form of pilot slots. Sometimes at no fault of their own, candidates just don’t have the opportunity because there are no slots available.

I was able to get a pilot slot when I was a sophomore, which was very young. A lot of it had to do with another thing that happened through good fortune. The ROTC commander of the Air Force unit at USC was also a pilot. It was little airplanes. He was flying at the same FPO that I was training getting my commercial rating and my instructor’s rating.

While I was going through training, I was also pumping gas so I probably saw him at least a couple of days a week at the FPO at Santa Monica Airport which was one of the closer airports to USC and that’s where I spend a lot of my time flying.

He saw that and he nominated me for a special new program called the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. This was a new program that included an entirely different flying syllabus and with the idea that everybody that graduated from this program was going to be fighter-qualified, that you were going to go to a fighter if you graduated the program, that you were what they call “far qualified fighter attack reconnaissance;” in other words, that you were part of the Tactical Air Command.

That was a huge plus for me because I knew if I could graduate pilot training, I was going to go to a fighter. I didn’t know starting out that I wanted to fly fighters. I just wanted to fly airplanes. It really didn’t matter. As these doors opened and things happened that allowed me to follow this path, that opportunity was offered to me. That’s how I ended up in F-16’s in the Air Force as my first assignment was through that training program.

Chris: I think that’s a good lesson in general, really in any career but just specifically in aviation is you can plan for your future and you can try to achieve those goals and do all you can but when opportunities come up and even some things that are kind of out of your control, it’s kind of worth it to change your path sometimes.

Although your path isn’t changing, I’m not saying that, it’s just that your way to get there was different from what you originally thought it was. People need to be looking at that in their aviation career regardless of what level you’re at in different ways to get to where you need to go and achieve what you need to achieve.

Steve: Things may seem really hopeless but things happen. Opportunities open up. Doors open up. I think the key is do not be shy about taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves because it may allow you to go down a path that you had never even thought of. I use an analogy that when you hit that roadblock, you just back up and you go around it and you keep going. Keep your eyes on the goal and you keep working towards that goal.

Chris: Yes, precisely. You’re in the, not necessarily in the F-16 yet but now you’re going through this…in to the fighter training. Tell us about that and what it was like in this new program that was being done.

Steve: We weren’t in fighters yet. We were flying the same two aircraft, the T-37 basic jet training and the T-38. It was the same airplane as what regular pilot training was but at the Euro-NATO Program the idea was that they wanted to introduce you as pilots to our partners in NATO. Half the instructors and half of the student pilots going through were of the NATO countries.

I was just so cool for a minute for many different reasons. One was the flying and flying and working with people on a day-to-day basis that were from other countries and cultures but also the social aspect was also a lot of fun, too.

Chris: Yes. No kidding. I would imagine that would give you a much more diverse experience.

Steve: It really was. It really was. Yet, we still had the same challenges and difficulties that anybody going through pilot training had was that in dealing with the personalities of other students and especially our instructors because I had various experiences, good and bad with instructors that I had going through pilot training. Some were fun and some were not so fun to fly with. I think that could be said no matter where you are that you’re going to run into pilots that have different personalities.

It was very competitive, maybe extremely competitive. You were reminded on a daily basis that you were always three rides from washing out and being eliminated. You absolutely had to be at the top of your game as best you could everyday.

It was something that you were never able to let your guard down and every day you went in to work that you could always have a bad day. Once you had a bad day then it was easier to have a bad day the next day. Then before you knew it, you’re in a final progress check. If you busted that ride then you were done.

It was very difficult but I would say probably my most difficult year ever but without a doubt the most rewarding year and enjoyable year. If you can have the most difficult year and the most rewarding year during that same year, if that’s possible, that’s what happened. The thing about pilot training was you were not yet recognized as a pilot. You were still that student pilot. Even though for the most part the instructors treated you with respect, you were still kind of a second-rate citizen. It was just difficult.

Once you graduated and you got your wings and you went on to whether it’s fighter lead-in, that transition between pilot training and your follow-on fighter, you were still treated like you were a real pilot because you’d been winged. You were treated more with respect. You’re accepted within the group a little bit more. You were just more of a transitioning pilot rather than a new student pilot. Things got a lot better.

Chris: Great. It seems like from all the people I’ve heard talk about their initial training in the Air Force or whatever, I guess branch of the military they’re in that they said all those things that it’s the most enjoyable, the most rewarding but also the hardest, the most challenging time in their flying career where they were just always on the verge of washing out. I can imagine what that’s like.

Steve: You know what? I’ve flown with many, many, many civilian pilots. The military is just a different route. I want to make it very clear that I have a lot of respect for everybody else no matter how they achieved their flying goal in a career sense that no matter how you do it, it’s hard. No matter how or when you do it, there are challenges that you have to overcome. It’s just not easy.

Chris: I wasn’t able to go in to the military myself because of medical reasons. I kind of had to go the civilian route. While there are pros and cons to each, it seems like eventually, there are a lot of pilots from both sides of the spectrum, that end up in the same place as very talented and capable professionals. That’s definitely true.

Steve: It’s absolutely true. That gets me in to basically where I was at learning to fly the F-16. This is where my path goes in the military was about two-thirds of my time was in the F-16. Then, I would have rather stayed on my second assignment in the F-16 but this is where again, we reached another fork in the road.

The options for me to go to another F-16 assignment just didn’t happen. This was just timing. With the stroke of a pen, the requirements of the Air Force where they didn’t need more F-16 pilots because up until this point the F-16 was still a growing community in the sense of air frames. Everybody was going through an operational tour after this first operational tour. When I came up to that point in time, they had changed that number requirement.

They offered me an opportunity. I like to use that word because it really was an opportunity and opened the doors to where I am now today. They said, “We don’t have a place for you in the F-16 but we’ve got a place for you in Training Command as an instructor.” They said, “You can go to a T-38 and we will choose the base of your assignment or you can go to a T-37 and you can choose the base of assignment.”

I’d been in Germany in cold weather for a long time and so I didn’t want them to send me to the less desirable T-38 bases and instructor. I though Phoenix would be pretty good. Therefore, I chose a T-37 assignment to Williams Air Force Base in Phoenix, Arizona.

Chris: Great, great. How long between the time that you started flying the T-37 yourself and T-38 through F-16 training and also flying the F-16 and then to being an instructor? How long of a time was that?

Steve: Let me kind of put it together. Pilot training was a year.

Chris: Okay.

Steve: Once I gradated and got my wings, there are a couple, three months where you went off and did other training like winter and land survival and so forth. Then, if you’re going to fighters, you’d go to Holloman Air Force Base at the time for fighter lead-in or lead-in fighter training as they called it.

That was in the 8038. It was a T-38 but it had a simple gun sight on it and a couple of hard points where they could put a gun pod and you could drop some small bomb-lets for bombing practice. It was basically an indoctrination in to Tactical Air Command. All the instructors there were part of Tactical Air Command or TAC. That was a two-month program that was just under 30 hours.

By then, that was my best program ever because I just, in my opinion, I had just finished pilot training. The last six months had all been in the T-38. Now I was getting to fly another T-38 and so I was very familiar with it. My flying kind of just apex-ed right then. I did really, really good. As a result, I graduated as a distinguished graduate from fighter lead-in, which was…that was very cool. It really made me feel good.

Chris: Good.

Steve: That was about two months long and then I went to Luke Air Force Base for F-16 RTU which is Replacement Training Unit where you learn to fly the F-16. Whatever airplane it is, it’s called the same in the Air Force. That was a six-month long program. I started pilot training in November of 1982. I had gone through all my training, F-16 training and showed up at my first operational assignment at Hahn Air Base Germany in November of 1984.

Chris: Got you. Wow!

Steve: That was about a two-year process.

Chris: Lots to learn in that two years.

Steve: Yes. It was “hair on fire,” as we say and a lot of drinking from the fire hose. All you could do is kind of just hang on and just keep trying. That’s all you can do. That was a three-year assignment at Hahn. I left Germany in 1987 in November and showed up at Williams as a T-37…well, I wasn’t qualified as an instructor yet in the T-37 but I showed up there. They send you through what they call a “pilot upgrade program,” which was a couple of months long.

Then, I went for, I think it was probably a couple of months long or maybe three months long in instructor training at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. That’s where I became a qualified T-37 instructor pilot.

Chris: Great, great.

Steve: It was spring of 1988 that I was fully qualified as an instructor and then I left the Air Force and separated in March of 1990. That’s when I started applying to the airlines. Actually, applying to the airlines happened before I separated but I had already made that decision. Actually, the Air Force made that decision for me. That’s another chapter and story how that happened.

Chris: Yes. No kidding. Wow. Yes. My head is spinning a little bit with all of this. I’m taking some notes here and learning a lot. All I can really think of is what an awesome career so far and what a cool journey to be able to go through all that passion as a youngster, get to the point where you kind of had the opportunity within your grasp meaning going through college, finding a different way to get there, and then actually making that happen.

You’re a regular guy, right? I mean, you’re more or less a guy off the street and you’ve done this. I think our listeners that are hearing this that are thinking of doing this kind of thing or dreaming of doing this kind of thing, to me it says it can be done. That’s what I really like about your story so far.

Steve: In overall, let me back up and review. You’re right. I’m a regular guy. I would say average in academics, in to sports a little bit. I ran track in middle school and high school. I skied ever since I was a kid. I snow skied. Had little bit of an athletic ability I think. Probably the most important thing, which is true I think to everything in life, is that you have a strong desire to follow through with what you want to do.

Getting back in the Air Force, one little vignette I think I can throw out, a little pearl of wisdom that we always said that even though the impression for a guy to become a fighter pilot in the Air Force, we see “Top Gun” and we see this unobtainable thing or the impression that it’s unobtainable is that, and I think most fighter pilots that I went through are just regular guys is that the Air Force or the best fighter pilot profile is an average student who got C’s in college who was an athlete that played some form of sports and had the desire to do it. That is the best fighter pilot.

That’s kind of like what guys always said that you don’t have to be Steve Canyon to do it.

Chris: Wow. Do you think a lot of that comes down to just the humility of that type of person?

Steve: I think deep down it’s certainly the case. That’s a whole another topic about what is the make-up of a fighter pilot. There’s certainly an attitude in there.

Chris: Yes.

Steve: They’re the best at what they do. There’s a lot of competition, plain and simple. That’s what it boils down to. It certainly manifests itself in extreme ways within fighter squadrons. It’s just a very unique and interactive profile or place to experience that. I think what I said about having the interest in being a basic student and having the desire to fly and being a little bit of an athlete and having those physical skills to do it, that’s all it really takes and the rest you make for yourself.

Chris: Okay. Got you. Got you. I guess moving on from there if we can even though I’m sure that there are countless stories to continue to share about that component of your career that made your component of your career. What were the next steps for you after you were an instructor?

Steve: That was another case of…I can do my instructor thing at Williams, do my time. That was also called the ALFA tour, which was important for career advancement and progression. Everybody has to do it. I thought, “I’ll do that and I’ll come back to the F-16.”

When the time came, it was probably 1989, mid- to late 1989 and there was just nothing happening and there were no more F-16 assignments. They were there but it was very difficult to get.

For someone like me, did my ALFA tour, when it came time to an assignment they said, “You know that F-16 we promised you? That’s not going to happen. What we see you doing is we’ve got a position for you for an 18-month short tour. It would also be the same as like an ALFA tour but be a FAC, a ground Forward Air Controller with the Army for 18 months,” which by the way is a non-flying job.

I thought, “The heck with that. That is not what I want to do. I want to fly airplanes.” That’s really what put the nail on the coffin for me, basically saying I love the Air Force. It was great, a great opportunity that did not end up panning out. Then, I made the decision to separate and to go and try to get a job as an airline pilot.

Chris: Got you.

Steve: That’s what got me to separate. I left and that was the last day of March in 1990. For the next four months, I was unemployed which I guess, looking back isn’t that long at the time but in the big picture in that position then, being unemployed and not getting a regular paycheck was a really tough time.

Chris: Right, right.

Steve: I had put in all my applications to all the airlines and all I wanted was somebody to hire me. Delta interviewed me first. I got turned down. Interviewed at American, got turned down. I have a pretty good idea I was adopted.

At the time American was going through like astronaut physical, at least that’s what I called it. They had an entire medical facility that they sent you through for your physical and they handed you this thick packet that you were supposed to fill out all your family history. I don’t know any of my family history because I was adopted.

I tossed it back to them. I didn’t fill any of it out. I’m quite certain that that was why American didn’t offer me a job because they had other people that could fill out all of the information that they wanted.

Chris: Wow.

Steve: Finally, I got hired at TWA but I didn’t have a [51:19]. I was hired to their pool. That was early summer, late spring of 1990. At least I knew that I was hirable. I was very impressed with TWA at the time. I just thought they had a great process for interviewing and everybody was super nice. Of course, everybody is probably nice to you when you get a job offer. You could just tell things were going right.

Then, it was really very late in coming that I got help from a friend of mine who had been in Germany with me in another F-16 squad. He was flying for a company called FedEx or Federal Express. He offered to hand carry my application in and so that’s what he did. It was a month or two later that I got called for an interview and got interviewed. Two weeks later, I got a letter offering me a job. I started employment at FedEx in August of 1990.

Chris: Wow.

Steve: That’s where it came. Here I was in the deepest despair. My God. I quit my Air Force career. My wife, she sees a regular paycheck coming and now I’ve given that all up. Four months unemployed and no airline is offering me a job. It was really tough. When I got the job, again everything turned around and that’s been, this August, will be 26 years ago that I started class at FedEx.

Chris: Wow. Tell us a little bit about what it’s like to fly for a cargo airline and even what your training was like there, the different aircraft you’ve flown there, and maybe even some cool experiences that you’ve had.

Steve: Yes. Again, I could talk for a long time.

Chris: I’m sure you can.

Steve: Over a period of 26 years, I got a ton of stuff. Some of the highlights were it was a real mixed class that I started with. There were five TWA guys which also when I started class I realized, “Yes, TWA probably wasn’t the place to go,” because a few years later they went out of business. Again, just luck. How did I end up at FedEx and not TWA? It was just luck.

Chris: Right, right.

Steve: The other part of it was we had I think 15 in our new-hire class. In basic indoc, I still remember that a guy coming in and saying, “You guys timed it great. We’re going to hire a thousand more pilots. You couldn’t end up in a better airline. Things were great.” I started two weeks after Iraq invaded Kuwait and the Gulf War was just in the horizon. I got hired in August of 1990. By January of 1991, FedEx shut its hiring doors for five years after hiring only 80 pilots.

Chris: Wow. Wow.

Steve: I ended up being…everybody got hired [54:17] as a flight engineer. That was an interesting experience in several ways because one, it was very basic technology…we say it’s basic technology now. It’s all round dials. We were all pilots. Being and learning how to be a flight engineer on the 727 wasn’t like flying an airplane. We kind of had to learn a whole different way of doing our airplane thing, flipping switches and not flying an airplane. That was interesting.

Then, to be on it for five years before I even had an opportunity to bid out of it with a bid. We didn’t have our first system bid until late 1994 so almost five years.

Chris: Wow.

Steve: Then, when things started moving, I mean it moved really fast because we hadn’t hired for all these years. There was this pent up need for pilots because we were very short. FedEx has always had a habit of waiting on the hiring and not hiring and getting really, really short and then all of a sudden realizing, “My gosh. We don’t have enough pilots,” and they just blow the doors off for hiring. It’s like this feast and famine which is still true to this day.

Anyway, when things started moving I spent a year in the right seat of the 727. Then, after six months there I got my bid to the right seat of the DC-10, which was a really cushy job. I like the DC-10 because it was real easy and, as a first officer there wasn’t a whole lot to do. Then again, after a couple of years, another bid came out. I was able, in my eighth year; I got my bid as a 727 captain.

Chris: Great.

Steve: That was eight years. I got to sit in all three seats. I was also a check airman. Since I’ve spent so much time in the backseat of the 727 as a flight engineer the last couple of years, I chose to be a line check airman flight engineer. I got to do that, too. When it came to the check out as a captain in a 727, I was really familiar with the airplane having sat in all three seats.

Chris: Great, great. What are you flying these days?

Steve: I’m on the Triple Seven.

Chris: Oh, great.

Steve: In between, I spent two or three years as a captain of the 727, I was able to get my wide-body captain’s bid to the MD-11. I spent 12 years as an MD-11 captain, seven of which I was a line check airman on. I could have gone a couple of years to the Triple Seven earlier but I was still finishing up my line check airman gig on the MD-11. It’s been almost three years now that I’ve been on the Triple Seven.

Chris: Great. Yes, those look pretty good in the FedEx colors. I see them up here in Anchorage quite a bit.

Steve: Yes, we get through Anchorage on a pretty regular basis. With the Triple Seven’s, the whole idea was that it got longer legs. A lot of the reasons that the airplanes are dropping into Anchorage is for a refueling stop.

Chris: Right.

Steve: We still get up there quite a bit with the Triple Seven.

Chris: Perfect. For those that are considering a cargo airline versus maybe a passenger airline, what would your quick takeaway be between choosing one or the other? For you, the opportunity obviously just kind of presented itself. Let’s say that someone does want to pursue one versus the other, what would you have to say to them?

Steve: I got to say, and this is my airline cap that I’m putting on now, I would say to anybody that wants to fly big airplanes apply to every single airline that you can. This is always the old adage. You go fly for the first airline that offers you a job. Then, if you want to pursue other airline jobs or if that wasn’t your first choice or it doesn’t work out exactly the way you wanted it, it’s a lot easier to try to get another job when you got a job.

Chris: Right. Yes.

Steve: That’s kind of my old airline advice.

Chris: That’s a good one. That’s a good one. It’s better not to be unemployed.

Steve: From the point of flying passengers or flying cargo, in the big picture it’s still the same airplane. There are differences that us as cargo pilots experience in that we don’t have the complexity of passengers and flight attendants. Our schedules are similar but they’re kind of different.

I think with the long-haul airlines…for example, my favorite flying month is a single departure line where I would leave Memphis on a 12-day trip and I go around the world. I don’t think you’d see that typically in the passenger carriers.

Of course, flying wide-bodies that’s probably not going to be one a new-hire will be positioned in but as an example, passenger long-haul airplanes, they might do what I would call an outback. You fly to Narita, layover for a day or two and then fly back to your hub where the cargo system lends itself for leaving and then we go to various cities around the world. After a ten-, 12-, 14-day trip, you wind back up back in your domicile.

Chris: Yes, yes. That in and of itself sounds very interesting and diverse to be able to do that because I know FedEx goes everywhere. There’s virtually no continent, no city they don’t go to.

Steve: That’s right. That’s right. We fly everywhere domestically, too.

Chris: Right. Of course.

Steve: Also, I want to say something about in the early days it’s absolutely true that the majority or everything that we flew was all nighttime because that’s the way the system form was. We are a complete 24-hour-seven-day-a-week airline where we’re flying every hour of the day somewhere in the world.

If you fly for FedEx, and I’m sure UPS is the same way because they fly a similar schedule that, and again, I’ll put on my airline hat to say seniority is pretty important, that if you want to fly a certain type of schedule, the greater your seniority is and the seat and airplane, you’re going to have a much greater opportunity to do what you want to do.

Chris: Yes. That is something that is well earned over time in being in a high seniority level. That means you stick with your airline and all that, too. Your advice to taking the first airline job is certainly pertinent.

Steve: Right, right. Then, you can do whatever you want. If you fly for XYZ airline and they offered you the first job, you started there. You’re gaining experience and you’re getting introduced to it. That’s all good. Then, if that pans out to be not exactly what you want, well gosh, you can still fill applications and still try to get that ultimate job that you’re looking for.

Chris: Right. Exactly.

Steve: I would say never ever burn bridges or close any doors.

Chris: Yes. Aviation just isn’t that way. If you’re the type of person that wants to burn bridges then you’re not going to get very far because really the only reason you get to where you go is by having bridges with relationships and people you know. Like in your case, you got to FedEx because of your friend that you had in Germany.

Steve: That’s absolutely right.

Chris: That’s just how aviation works.

Steve: Networking is very important. Very important.

Chris: I really appreciate your time on the show today. I know you and I have been talking for over an hour and a half now both on and off the show. In wrapping up, I’d like to get your final thoughts on your career and how you would sum up your own career and journey and then also what your advice would be to others regardless of what type of flying they’re wanting to do in achieving their dreams.

Steve: I think we’re all, as pilots, very, very lucky that we’ve been given this rare opportunity to enjoy something we call flying. It’s a passion. It’s something we love to do. It’s absolutely something very worthy of your efforts. No matter how difficult it is or how many challenges that you have that appear to be in your way towards gaining your goal that they’re more than likely is an avenue in which you could find that way to your goal. Never give up. Keep that dream alive.

If it’s not in airlines, it might be in the military. If it’s not in military, it might be flying in some other form or fashion within the aviation community whether it’s corporate or something related to aviation. I think as long as we’re exposed to flying and airplanes, I think we’d be happy.

Chris: Definitely.

Steve: I would want to wish everybody that’s out there and everybody out there may have similar stories but they all have a slightly different path on how they’re going to get to it. No one person will be the same or will experience the same journey. I would say take heart and never give up.

Chris: I appreciate you spending time with us. Looking forward to hearing more about your flying with Ryan even. I hope Ryan enjoys this show, too. I thank him for suggesting you be on the show because this has been a lot of fun and I really do appreciate it.

Steve: Yes. I’ve got a lot more stories and a lot more things to talk about in more specifics. It could take up a lot more time and we just don’t have the time to talk about everything here today.

Chris: Maybe we should plan a part two sometime then. That would be fun as well.

Steve: Right because I would love to get in to specifics about my basic flying training, the experience that I had because there were other things that I think could be really valuable just specifically to talk about, about me getting my ratings, about going through pilot training and the military experiences. Then, I could write volumes on just the airline experience. Then, we haven’t even talked about still flying little airplanes and flying gliders.

Chris: Oh, yes.

Steve: Really, I love flying the big airplanes but my passion is racing sailplanes. Everything else is wonderful but if I had to pick one favorite thing, it’s probably racing sailplanes.

Chris: That’s great. That’s awesome. Are you an aircraft owner?

Steve: Yes. I’m very fortunate. I’m lucky to have four aircraft in my possession. I have an L19 Bird Dog…

Chris: Oh, great.

Steve: In Air Force colors which is nice.

Chris: That’s great.

Steve: It’s got a tail hook on it to allow us to tow gliders with it as well. I’ve recently acquired an Aeronca Champ, a 1945 Aeronca Champ that’s a very early serial number, which we really enjoy. Ryan and I are looking forward to the next two or three years here of putting that through a total restoration and recover.

We also have a 1964 Schweizer126, which is a single-place sport glider. Then, I have a 2008 model of ASG 29 racing glider, which is an 18-meter or 60-foot wingspan racing glider built by Alexander Schleicher, which is a German company.

Chris: Wow. I’ve never done glider flying before. I’d have to admit. I’ve always wanted to.

Steve: This is another aspect that we didn’t even get in to. One of the best things kids can do if they have an aviation interest is to learn how to fly gliders. If you can get even to solo in gliders, the transition to power planes and the foundation in stick and rudder skills that it affords the student I say is invaluable.

Chris: I would even say [01:06:43] is probably good, too right? After you’ve…

Steve: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve seen a lot of kids that…because you can solo gliders at 14, some kids that are lucky enough that they can start learning to fly gliders before then and then solo. A lot of kids I’ve seen solo on their 14th birthday in gliders.

Chris: Man, that’s too cool.

Steve: Yes, very cool. Like my youngest son, he’s got about 25 hours of solo time in the 126. That was before he was even able to consider power flying, at least for a license where we would get his license. He was under the age for that.

Chris: Right, right. Too cool. I’m down at Atlanta every now and again so I need to come by and say hi to you guys.

Steve: Yes, you do. You know where Miller’s Landing is because you’ve been here.

*Chris:** I got there by air so I’d have to ask Siri how to get there by car but yes I have…

Steve: I tell you. It’s really easy. It’s 30 miles south of the Atlanta Airport on Interstate 75. You get off at the Lotus Grove exit and it’s three miles west of I-75.

Chris: Very cool. Yes. That was actually prior to us getting on the air here. I was telling Steve that in my initial, not initial but just after I’d become a pilot I was learning to fly a Bonanza. The guy that I was flying with he owns some Beech 18’s and some DC-3’s. We actually flew into Miller’s Landing there in Atlanta. We flew down there from Iowa and we picked up some DC-3 propellers from some guy that lived on the field there.

Steve: I know exactly who that is.

Chris: Oh. Do you really?

Steve: Yes. That’s Zip Hiden.

Chris: Yes, that was it.

Steve: There’s a DC-3 that was on our lot. In fact, if you were here and you saw that DC-3, that’s our lot.

Chris: Oh, wow. Yes. I don’t think it was there at the time.

Steve: It’s still parked here. He claims he sold it to a museum but it’s still parked on somebody else’s lot waiting to fly off, I guess.

Chris: I bet that I was part of the restoration process of getting that thing there because I think…

Steve: How about this?

Chris: Yes. That was about, gosh 12 years ago probably when that was happening.

Steve: Yes. Zip’s the developer or was the developer. He and his dad.

Chris: Wow.

Steve: He’s been here since the early 1970’s.

Chris: Oh, wow. Okay. I just missed it then. Very cool.

*Steve:** Yes. You’re welcome anytime. Yes, absolutely. If you have any desire to explore other aspects that you have found that might be valuable for your listenership, I’d be happy to talk to you about it.

Chris: Yes. We need a part two. I think that’s just something we got to commit to right now. We should do a part two and talk about some of the finer details. That would be a lot of fun.

Steve: Our interview I hope you found that it was adequate for what your listeners would be happy with hearing but I feel a little inadequate. I feel like so many things were glossed over. There’s so much more to it. You’re talking about a long career and there are so many things to talk about. Maybe the goal was that we could be satisfied that it was just maybe giving an introduction to the things that I experienced.

Chris: Yes, yes. I think a part two is definitely in the books. I think what I took away from this interview with you was the fact that regardless of obstacles, it can be done and you can achieve the goals that you want to achieve. That’s largely what we get out of interviews like this. It bears repeating.

Like you said, there are so many people that have gone through aviation and every story is different but they eventually end up more or less in the range where they want to be. They’re happy and they’re excited about their career still. They still love flying. That’s what I’m after.

Steve: Good. Great. I’m glad you liked it. Just drop me a note or call me anytime. Okay?

Chris: Perfect. Appreciate it, Steve. Take care.

Steve: Right now, I’m going to hop in the Champ with Ryan and we’re going to knock off a few patterns.

Chris: Perfect. Go celebrate.

Steve: Yes. How about a great way to end that interview by going flying?

Chris: Yes. That’s awesome. I wish I could do that. Maybe I will next time.

Steve: It was fun talking to you. All right.

Chris: You too, Steve. Thank you.

Steve: Bye-bye.

Join us next week for another exciting topic or interview with a great guest. Spread the AviatorCast message. Please review AviatorCast on iTunes or submit an audio question for the show at AviatorCast.com. All iTunes reviews and audio questions that are aired on the show will get an official AviatorCast t-shirt. You can write AviatorCast directly on AviatorCast.com where you can interact with the AviatorCast community or write AviatorCast at me@aviatorcast.com. We’d love to hear from you.

For more information on Angle of Attack simulation training videos for FSX, X-Plane and more, go to www.flyaoamedia.com. If you are looking for a professional aviation training video services and other media, inquire at www.angleofattackpro.com. Now, for the final release clearance, back to Chris Palmer.

Chris: A big thanks goes out to Steve for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast and also his son, Ryan for suggesting that we have him on the show. It was a great pleasure and seriously, I would really like to have a part two on the show and have you on, Steve. Again, thank you for spending your time coming on with us.

Steve and I spent a couple of hours together and he’s giving of his time for this show. I hope you guys got something great out of it. I know I did. I’m feeling inspired. I’m ready to go fly. I wish I could just leave the office right now and go do that but I’m doing this for you guys and then I’ll upload it and all that sort of jazz but I’ll be flying soon. That’s good news.

In fact, if I may interrupt here quickly and to my own monologue, I’m going up to the Valdez Fly-In this weekend in Alaska. We’re the big bush pilot competition. You’ve seen these videos on YouTube where these airplanes are stopping and taking off in the shortest, shortest distance you’ve ever seen. That is the Valdez Fly-In. I’m very excited to do that with my friend, Deon Mitton who I mentioned in the last episode. He’s a great photographer and pilot.

I’m excited to spend some time up there, get some cool footage, some cool thoughts, ideas, passion for aviation all kind of wrapping in to exactly what Steve is doing and what Ryan is doing as a father-son relationship. They are having these experiences and doing these things and continually keeping themselves in aviation. I just think that’s so cool to see Steve passing the baton like that and also inspiring his son like he did or like others did for him when he was younger trying to get in to aviation. Very, very cool, guys.

I’m so grateful to be here week after week. I’m really grateful to the Angle of Attack crew, what they do behind the scenes and our media company, our training media company to make money and get things moving forward in our company so that I can step away and do an important thing for the community like this each and every week.

Above and beyond that, I really appreciate you guys for being here. I appreciate the reviews. I appreciate the personal e-mails. me@aviatorcast.com if you guys ever want to reach out. I’m a pretty open book. I love to meet people. Really, feel free to reach out.

Keep the dream alive. As Steve says, I wrote down a couple of his quotes here. He says, “If someone has the dream or desire to fly, they’ll find a way to do it.” That’s certainly true. He also says, “Never quit trying.”

While those may not end up in a quote book someday and you may not find that on the internet when you Google aviation quotes or inspirational quotes, they fit for us. Right? If we have that desire to fly and we’re trying to get there, there is a way to do it. Just keep being persistent.

Early on in AviatorCast I came up with an acronym that you can all remember. It’s called PHD. You remember PhD as doctors, right? We are doctors of our airplanes. We are doctors in the sky. Think of this: PHD-Passion, Hard work, Determination. Keep it up. Keep moving forward. Keep pushing through those barriers and one day you will reach your dreams in aviation.

That is it for this episode of AviatorCast. Until next time, throttle on!


One Reply on AviatorCast Episode 86: Steve Vihlen: Airline Cargo Pilot | Fighter Pilot | GA Lover

I was looking up Steve Vihlen on saw his interview with you
He came up to me as a brand new student at Sheppard AFB. He recognized that I had gone to the same High School in California that his Dad taught at. He asked me if I could solo him out in T38 s. I said sure, come find me when you get through T37s
He was one of my best studs
Lots of other good stories about a Steve if you like contact me
Lance Maki MD
Former USAF ( Pilot C131, T 37 T38
KC 135 Aerospace Physiologist
Flight Surgeon )
3212715056 (leave msg)
How do I find Steve?


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