**Written by AFE volunteer pilot, Rob**
Involvement with flying has stretched over most of my life. At the age of 21, my father was a B-26 Pilot in D-Day, and he continued to fly with friends. My first airplane ride was with him, and while I was not immediately captured – I did love the mechanics/physics of it all, and the challenge of learning the skills.
After High School, I went to the Air Force Academy, and then to pilot training. I got my first choice of assignments – an F-4 to Kunsan Airbase Korea! It was a GREAT place to learn the trade, with lots of room to maneuver, and few restrictions. After that I was assigned to Nellis in Las Vegas with much of the state of Nevada/some of Utah to roam, and lots of other aircraft to fly with and against in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. I also got my ‘civilian’ Commercial, Instrument Instructor ratings and did some training with local flying clubs. The physics of flight are pretty much the same for all (fixed wing) aircraft – but flying two planes in the same day, where in one the take-off rotation speed was greater than the Vne of the other was always an exercise in mental agility.
After I got out of the Air Force, I enjoyed all the normal demands of a job, family and kids. While I was flying ~75k miles a year, all of it was in the back of an American or Delta bird with someone else enjoying the view, and for me personal flying was in the past. Then, about 3 years ago, I made the decision that if I was ever going to get back into the air on my own – I had better get on with it.
I went over to the local flying club and regained my Commercial and Instrument tickets in the standard 172 – and then one day I saw a Cirrus in front of the FBO! WOW – now THAT looked different! I was immediately hooked! The Cirrus Training Plane is very well structured, my instructor at Wings Field was super and I really loved all the technology that provides a lot of new capability, and safety. Most of my USAF flying had been close to the ground, at 450 knots holding a folded Sectional up in front of my face or looking for the name of the town on the water tower. The idea that I now had an airplane with a GPS, AND an AutoPilot?? Gotta love that.
It was then that I learned about Angel Flight, and immediately recognized the mutual benefits: first to ME of again having a flying ‘Mission’ again – with a variety of destinations; and second the chance to use my skills to be of Service to Others. It’s been a terrific experience; in the FBO meeting the passengers, in the air enroute ‘in the system’, and on the ground getting to know others in the AFE organization. I love being part of such a great organization and look forward to a lot more missions – having fun, and making a difference to others.