Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Jim's History

CadetJim.png The cadet days were a blur. To say that I was a naive teen-ager is an under statement. Arrival day I went in early because I thought Thad Wolfe, Jim Shively and I (all from Eastern Washington) could go lay around the pool and relax before officially checking in. I heard yelling before we got off the bus and needless to say, 30 seconds later I was in shock. I was in “Fightin' Fourth” Squadron so a juicy target for the other 23 squadrons who loved to make you do push-ups until you stopped saying “Fighting Fourth” and just said “Fourth”. I couldn't do push-ups. Don't know what the physiology is but I was the worst.

I quickly got off of the squadron dining tables by convincing Arne Arneson, the track and cross-country coach, that I could pole vault. Mr. Arneson saved my life by putting me on the cross-country team although I could never run cross-country. I trained for track year-round and eventually set the USAFA Pole Vault record that stood for a few years. I always regretted that there was no music or flying program for Cadets back then. I graduated near the top of our class, but the real highlight for me was my squadron-mates thought enough of my integrity to appoint me as Honor Rep.

I went to pilot training in Arizona and graduated high enough to get the job I wanted flying T-38s. I soon was offered a job training instructor pilots which was very interesting: I was a wet behind the ears Lieutenant instructing Majors who were returning from Viet Nam with chests full of metals.

flighttest.png I always wanted to be a test pilot, so when the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) offered me a chance to go through the Edwards Test Pilot School as a civilian I jumped at the idea. I squeaked by ahead of all the Air Force guys so I was proud of making it through the toughest school I have ever attended. I tested civil airplanes for many years and was sure that I had the best job in the world. I was asked to interview (3 days worth) for the first space shuttle astronaut program and was in the final 45 guys. I was the only civilian. When NASA selected 20, I was not selected, but didn't take it too hard because I still thought I had the best job in the world. I got a Masters at the University of Texas then taught Aerospace Engineering for 14 years in night school there. I got successively promoted in FAA and retired in 2001 as a Senior Executive with 42 years of government service. At that point, my lovely wife, Elizabeth, accepted a job in Singapore and I was proud to carry her bags for the next 4 years. While in Singapore I started Erickson Aviation Services, LLC, an aviation consulting company. Consulting was a lot of fun; customers included Singapore Airlines and the International Business Aviation Council. While there, I also wrote the aviation regulations for the certification of aircraft for the Government of Singapore and trained their employees in how to certify aircraft.

Elizabeth and I have since returned to the US and we are now both retired from government service, living in Naples Florida. Erickson Aviation Services continues to flourish and we have a dozen or so consulting employees. We do business world-wide and continue to maintain relationships with many wonderful people in the aviation industry. We have one daughter and five grandchildren. We have been here in Florida since 2007 (7 years now) and believe that we have found paradise in Southwest Florida. We are active in our Lutheran church and in volunteer work. I honestly never imagined I would be part of a 50th Reunion, but am looking forward to reconnecting with the guys who propped me up and helped me get through four of the toughest and most memorable years of my life.

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