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Pilot Peter: My Story

Growing up in West Los Angeles was pretty amazing now that I think back on it. Lots of aviation; Clover Field, known as Santa Monica Airport now, was nearby. Clover field was the location that Douglas manufactured the entire Douglas Commercial “DC” series of reciprocating-engine-powered airlines. DC-1 though DC-7. LAX was just a few miles away with all of its airliners coming and going. I remember going out to the Imperial Terminal at LAX, just off Imperial boulevard, to see the Super Sonic Transport, Le Concorde, as it was on it’s around the world tour in the spring of 1975. As a kid in High School it was difficult to fathom this amazing looking airliner. I was hooked on flying I just did not realize it at the time.

Today in 2020, I fly as a Captain on the Airbus 330 out of Seattle for Delta Airlines. However, a long time ago, in 1978, I took my first check ride for my Private Pilots flight license. I flew a Piper 140 for the flight. It took me a year to earn the money and take the training, I passed. I did have to take the written test twice as I flunked it the first time. So many check rides later I still get nervous, its normal. Study and know the manoeuvres cold you will be fine.

I went to College, after my gap year of working and flying. I did enjoy the culture of flying, the rules the freedom of going places. During my first two years of College I was able to get most my ratings, including my Flight Instructors license. I was a flight instructor at the Palo Alto Airport for about a year. It was a great part time job, hard work but I learned a lot. The last two years of University took my full attention so there was very little flying. In the summer prior to my senior year I enlisted in the Air National Guard with the purpose of going to Air Force Pilot Training.

I was selected for Pilot Training and once I graduated, I joined Air Force Class 84-08 Undergraduate Pilot Training, UPT, at Reese Air Force Base near Lubbock, Texas. I spent a year at Reese, T-37’s then T-38’s then on to C-130 school for three months near Little Rock, Arkansas. I struggled at first, my initial check ride in the T-37 did not go too well, my recheck a few days later went ok. I was nervous and not used to the helmet, the oxygen mask, the ejection seat and all the manoeuvres I was expected to know. I worked, studied tried to ask some intelligent questions and managed to become very comfortable during my training.

The year at Reese was fast paced, our class started with 100 guys and ended graduating about fifty of us. The fifty percent washout rate was typical at the time. The Air Force only wanted you if you really wanted it. Study, fly, check ride, study fly check ride, that was my life for about fifteen months. I am still in contact with many of my classmates from UPT, it was a tough year, you make some good friends. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun all at the same time. Once I finished training, I entered my C-130 squadron in Anchorage, Alaska. We spent about half our time flying in the State of Alaska. The C-130 is a support aircraft for the U.S. Army. They would parachute out of it and we would airdrop stuff to them. If there was a suitable runway we would land, it needed to be at least 3000 feet long. The rest of the time we flew all types of places, but mostly to Asia, Europe, and South/Central America. Lots of flying, lots of great stories. But still there were the check rides the studying, the learning.

I started with Northwest Orient Airlines in January 1986. Northwest and Delta merged in 2008 and kept the Delta name. I started as a Flight Engineer on the Boeing 727. That is where all the newly hired pilots at Northwest started at the time. Flying different aircraft keeps things interesting, here is the list since I started; 727, DC-10, 747, 757, 737, 767, and now the A-330. I have flown out of a variety of Bases; Minneapolis, Detroit, Los Angeles, Honolulu, and Seattle. I have flown most places in the world where people want to go, Bombay, Hong Kong, Milwaukee, Memphis, etc. If you like to travel and don’t mind the studying, the annual check ride and being gone from home a lot it is a great job. I think I was hooked watching them takeoff and land at the Santa Monica Airport back when I was a kid. I still love flying airplanes.

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