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Routine Aviation Career

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Old September 26th 04, 12:33 AM
Guy Alcala
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Default Routine Aviation Career

I just had to pass this along -- Enjoy.


What follows is classic aviation lore. John Lear gave this
talk on July 9th, 2004 to a group of fellow pilots in the
Las Vegas "Hangar of Quiet Birdmen." John Lear is the son
of William Lear, a self-taught American electrical engineer
industrialist whose Lear Jet Corporation produced the first
mass-manufactured business jets in the world. Lear also
developed the automobile radio, the eight-track stereo tape
player for automobiles, and the miniature automatic pilot
for aircraft...
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- - - - - - - - - -

John Lear on John Lear:

One of the anguishes of advancing age is losing old friends.
The upside of that, though, is that I get to tell the story
my way.

I learned to fly at Clover Field in Santa Monica when I was
14. However before I got to get in an actual airplane Dad
made me take 40 hours of Link with Charlie Gress. I can't
remember what I did yesterday but I guarantee you I could
still shoot a 90 degree, Fade-out or Parallel radio range

When I turned 16 I had endorsements on my student license
for an Aero Commander 680E and Cessna 310. I got my private
at 17 and instrument rating shortly thereafter. The Lockheed
18 Lodestar was my first type rating at age 18. I went to
work for
my father and brother flying copilot on a twin beech out of
Geneva Switzerland after I got out of high school. Dad was
over there trying to peddle radios to the European airlines.

However just after I turned 18 and got my Commercial I was
showing off my aerobatic talents in a Bucker Jungmann to my
friends at a Swiss boarding school I had attended. I managed
to start a 3 turn spin from too low an altitude and crashed.
I shattered both heels and ankles and broke both legs in 3
places. I crushed my neck, broke both sides of my jaw and
lost all of
my front teeth. I managed to get gangrene in one of the open
wounds in my ankles and was shipped from Switzerland to the
Lovelace Clinic in Albuquerque where Randy Lovelace made me

When I could walk again I worked selling pots and pans door
to door in Santa Monica. In late 1962 Dad had moved from
Switzerland to Wichita to build the Lear Jet and I went to
Wichita to work in Public Relations until November of 1963
about 2 months after the first flight when I moved to Miami
and took over editing an aviation newspaper called Aero

I moved the newspaper to El Segundo in California and ran it
until it failed. I then got a job flight instructing at
Progressive Air Service in Hawthorne, California. From there
I went to Norman Larson Beech in Van Nuys flight instructing
in Aircoupes.

In the spring of 1965 I was invited by my Dad back to
Wichita to get type-rated in the model 23 Learjet. I then
went to work for the executive aircraft division of Flying
Tigers in Burbank who had secured a dealership for the Lear.

In November of 1965 my boss Paul Kelly crashed number 63
into the mountains at Palm Springs killing everybody on
board including Bob Prescott's 13 year old son and four of
the major investors in Tigers. I took over his job as
President of Airjet charters a wholly owned subsidiary of
FTL and flew charters and sold Lears. Or rather tried to
sell them. It turns out that I
never managed to sell one Learjet in my entire life.

In March of 1966 two lear factory pilots Hank Beaird, Rick
King and myself set 17 world speed records including speed
around the round the world, 65 hours and 38 minutes in the
first Lear Jet 24. Shortly after that flight I got canned
from Tigers and moved to Vegas and started the first 3rd
level airline in Nevada, Ambassador Airlines. We operated an
Aero Commander and Cherokee 6 on five stops from Las Vegas
to LAX. This was about the time Hughes moved to Las Vegas
and I was doing some consulting work for Bob and Peter

The money man behind Ambassador was Jack Cleveland who I
introduced to John Myers in the Hughes organization.
Cleveland and Myers tried to peddle the 135 certificate to
Hughes without success and Jack ended up selling Howard
those phony gold mining claims you all may remember. I went
back to Van Nuys and was flying Lear charter part time for
Al Paulson and Clay Lacy at California Airmotive, the
Learjet distributor.

That summer I started a business called Aerospace Flight
Research in Van Nuys were I rented aircraft to Teledyne to
flight test their Inertial Guidance Systems. We had a B-26,
Super Pinto and Twin Beech. I think we lasted about 4

I then went to work for World Aviation Services in Ft.
Lauderdale ferrying the Cessna O2 FAC airplane from Wichita,
fresh off the assembly line to Nha Trang in Viet Nam with
fellow QB Bill Werstlein. We were under the 4440th ADG
Langley VA. and hooked up with a lot of other military
pilots ferrying all manner and types of aircraft.

Our route was Wichita to Hamilton, Hickam, Midway, Wake,
Guam, Clark and then in country. The longest leg was
Hamilton to Hickam an average of 16 hours, no autopilot, no
copilot, and one ADF. We also had three piddle packs.
Arriving in Nha Trang we would hitch a ride to Saigon and
spend 3 days under technical house arrest, each trip, pay a
fine for entering the
country illegally, that is being civilians and not coming
through a port of entry, catch an airline up to Hong Kong
for a little R and R and straight back to Wichita for
another airplane. I flew this contract for 4 years.

During some off time in 1968 I attempted to ferry a Cessna
320 from Oakland to Australia with the first stop in
Honolulu. About 2 hours out from Oakland I lost the right
engine and had no provisions for dumping fuel. I went down
into ground effect (T effect for you purists) and for three
hours and 21 minutes flew on one engine about 25 feet above
the waves and made it into Hamilton AFB after flying under
the Golden Gate and Richmond bridges.

An old friend Nick Conte, was officer of the day and gave me
the royal treatment. Why did I go into Hamilton instead of
Oakland? I knew exactly where the O-Club was for some much
needed refreshment.

In September of 1968 between 0-2 deliveries I raced a
Douglas B-26 Invader in the Reno Air Races. It was the
largest airplane ever raced at Reno, and I placed 5th in the
Bronze passing one Mustang. It was reported to me after
the race by XB-70 project pilot Col. Ted Sturmthal that when
I passed the P-51, three fighter pilots from Nellis
committed suicide off the back of the grandstands. In the
summer of 1970 I helped Darryl Greenamyer and Adam Robbins
put on the California 1000 air race in Mojave California.
That's the one where Clay Lacy raced the DC-7.

I flew a B-26 with Wally McDonald. I then started flying
charter in an Aero Commander and Beech Queen Air for Aero
Council a charter service out of Burbank. They went belly up
about three months later and I went up to Reno to work for
my Dad as safety pilot on his Lear model 25. After my Dad
fired me I was personally escorted to the Nevada/California
border by an ex-Los Angeles police detective who worked for
Dad and did the muscle work.

I went back down to Van Nuys and was Chief Pilot for Lacy
Aviation and was one of the first pilot proficiency
examiners for the Lear Jet. In the summer of 1973 I moved to
Phnom Penh, Cambodia as Chief Pilot and Director of
Operations for Tri Nine Airlines which flew routes
throughout Cambodia for Khmer Akas Air.

I flew a Convair 440 an average of 130 hours a month. We had
unlimited quantities of 115/145 fuel and ADI and were able
to use full CB-17 power (which was 62" for any of you R-2800
aficionados). In November of 1973 I moved to Vientianne,
Laos and flew C-46's and Twin Otters for Continental Air
Services Inc. delivering guns and ammo to the Gen. Vang Pao
and his CIA supported troops.

We got shot down one day and when I say we, Dave Kouba was
the captain. We were flying a twin otter and got the right
engine shot out. Actually the small arms fire had hit the
fuel line in the right strut and fuel was streaming out back
around the tail and being sucked into the large cargo
opening in the side of the airplane and filling the cockpit
with a fine mist of jet fuel.

I held the mike in my hands, "Should I call Cricket and
possibly blow us up or...?" (Some of you may remember
"Cricket"... "This is Cricket on guard with an air strike
warning to all aircraft".)

But Davy found us a friendly dirt strip and we were back in
the air the next day. When the war came to an end in 1973 I
moved back to Van Nuys and started flying Lears for Lacy
again until October when I went up to Seattle

During those two years I made many round the world trips and
many over the pole trips. In 1977 I moved back to Vegas and
was Director of Operations for Nevada Airlines flying DC-3's
and Twin Beech's to the Canyon. In September of '77 I was
called to Budapest for another CIA operation flying 707's
loaded with arms and ammo to Mogadishu.

Leaving Budapest then refueling in Jeddah we flew radio
silence down the Red Sea trying to avoid the MiGs based in
Aden, whose sole purpose on earth was to force us down. The
briefing was simple. If you guys get into trouble DON'T CALL
US. Back to Vegas in December of that year I was hired as
Chief Pilot for Bonanza Airlines 2 operating DC-3's and a
Gulfstream 1 from Vegas to Aspen.

After that airline collapsed I was hired by Hilton Hotels to
fly their Lear 35 A. In my spare time I flew part time for
Dynalectron and the EPA on an underground nuke test
monitoring program. I flew their B-26, OV-10, Volpar Beech
and Huey helicopter. I also flew the Tri-Motor Ford part
time for Scenic Airlines. In 1978 my Dad passed away and
left me with one dollar, which incidentally, I never got.

In 1980 I ran for the Nevada State Senate district 4. I lost
miserably only because I was uninformed, unprepared and both
of my size 9 triple E's were continually in my mouth.

I got fired from Hilton shortly after that and moved to
Cairo, Egypt to fly for Air Trans another CIA cutout. After
the Camp David accords were signed in 1979 each country,
Egypt and Israel, were required to operate four flights a
week into the other's country. Of course, El Al pilots
didn't mind flying into Cairo, but you could not find an
Egyptian pilot that would fly
into Tel Aviv. So an Egyptian airline was formed called
Nefertiti Airlines with me as chief pilot to fly the four
flights a week into Tel Aviv. On our off time we flew
subcontract for Egyptair throughout Europe and Africa. All
this, of course was just a cover for our real missions,
which was all kinds of nefarious gun running throughout
Europe and Africa, which we did in our spare time.

And now that our beloved 40th president has passed on I can
tell you that in fact (with my apologies to Michael Reagan)
the October Surprise was true. The October surprise for
those of you that don't remember happened during October of
1980 when Reagan and Bush were running against Carter and
Mondale. George Bush was flown in a BAC-111 one Saturday
night to Paris to meet with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Bush
offered the Khomeini a deal whereby if he would delay the
release of the hostages held in Tehran until Reagan's
inauguration, the administration would supply unlimited guns
and ammunition to the Iranians.

In order to get Bush back for a Sunday morning brunch so
that nobody would be alerted to his absence he was flown
back in an SR-71 from Reims field near Paris to McGuire AFB.

Of course Reagan won, the hostages were released and one of
my jobs in Cairo was to deliver those arms from Tel Aviv to

Unfortunately, the first airplane in, an Argentinean CL-44
was shot down by the Russians just south of Yerevan and
Mossad, who was running the operation, didn't want to risk
sending my 707. The arms where eventually delivered through
Dubai, across the Persian Gulf and directly into Terhan.

During the two years I was in Cairo I averaged 180 hours a
month with a top month of 236 hours in a 31 day period. I
spent a six week tour in Khartoum flying cows to Saana,
North Yemen in an old Rolls Royce powered 707.

Back in Las Vegas in December of 1982 I sat on my ass until
I was out of money, again, and then went to work for Global
Int'l Airlines in Kansas City, another CIA cutout run by
Farhad Azima, an Iranian with a bonafide Gold Plated Get Out
of Jail Free card flying 707's until they collapsed in
October of 83.

During the summer of 1983 the FAA celebrated its 25th
Anniversary at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in
Oklahoma City. There was much fanfare and speech making and
two honored guests, Bill Conrad from Miami, Florida who had
the most type ratings, I think over 50, and myself. I had
the most airman certificates issued of any other airman.

After Global's collapse I went went to work for American
Trans Air flying 707's. I wrote their international
navigation manual as MNPS for North Atlantic operations was
just being implemented and became the first FAA designated
check airman for MNPS navigation. ATA then added 727's and
then Lockheed L-1011's. For a very brief time I was
qualified as captain in all

After getting fired from ATA in July of 1989 I became a
freight dog flying DC-8's for Rosenbalm Aviation, which
became Flagship Express and after that airline collapsed I
was hired as Chief pilot for Patriot Airlines out of Stead
Field in Reno, flying cargo 727's from Miami to South

After getting fired from Patriot I went to work for Connie
Kalitta flying DC-8s, then the L-1011 on which I was a check
airman. Kalitta sold out to Kitty Hawk International, which
went bankrupt in May of 2000.

I was 57 at the time and nobody is going to hire an old f*ck
for two and a half years except to fly sideways, so I turned
in my stripes and ever present flask of Courvoisier. Except
for one last fling in March of 2001 where I flew the Hadj
for a Cambodian Airline flying L-1011's under contract to
Air India. We were based in New Delhi and flew to Jeddah
from all
throughout India. There was absolutely no paperwork, no FAA,
no BS and for six weeks we just moved Hadji's back and forth
to Saudi Arabia.

One final note, in October of 1999 I had the honor and
extreme pleasure to get checked out in a Lockheed CF-104D
Starfighter. My instructor was Darryl Greenamyer, the
airplane was owned by Mark and Gretchen Sherman of Phoenix.
It was the highlight of my aviation career particularly
because I survived my first and only SFO in a high
performance fighter.

One other thing, some how I managed to get the following
type ratings:

707/720/727, Convair 240/340/440, DC-3, DC-8, B-26,
Gulfstream 1, Lockheed Constellation, Lear Jet series,
HS-125, Lockheed L-1011, Lockheed L-18, Lockheed P-38,
Martin 202/404, B-17, B-25, Grumman TBM and Ford Trimotor. I

also have single and multi-engine sea, rotorcraft helicopter
and gyroplane, and lighter than air free balloon. I never
got all categories having missed the Airship. And in case
you are interested many, many airmen have lots more type

What I did get, that no other airman got was most FAA
certificates: these are the ATP, Flight Instructor with
airplane single and multi engine, instrument, rotorcraft
helicopter and gyroplane and glider. Flight Navigator,
Flight Engineer, Senior Parachute Rigger, Control Tower
Operator, A&P, Ground Instructor, Advanced and Instrument
and Aircraft Dispatcher. I have 19,488 hours of total time
of which 15,325 hours is in 1,2,3 or 4 engine jet. I took a
total of 181 FAA (or designated check airman) check rides
and failed two.

Of the thousands of times I knowingly violated an FAA
regulation, I was only caught once, but never charged or

The farthest I have ever been off course was 321 miles left
over the South China Sea in a 707 on New Years day 1977 on a
flight from Taipai. The deviation was not caught by Hong
Kong, Manila or Singapore radar and I penetrated six zero to
unlimited restricted areas west of the Philippines. I landed
in Singapore 7 minutes late without further incident.

How, you ask, did I get so far off course? The short answer
is I was napping at the controls. I have flown just about
everywhere except Russia, China, Mongolia, Korea,
Antarctica, Australia or New Zealand. I am a senior
vice-commander of the American Legion Post No.1 Shanghai,
China (Generals Ward, Chennault and Helseth) (operating in
exile) and a 21-year member of the Special Operations

Now some of you may be asking why so many airlines collapsed
that I worked for and why I got fired so many times. My
excuse is simple. I am not the brightest crayon in the box,
I am extremely lazy, I have a smart mouth and a real poor
f*cking attitude.


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