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Friday, March 25, 2016


One of the companies that was coming to the USAir BAC 1-11 ground school was a new, start up airline from California, Pacific Express.  The first class included their Chief Pilot, Boyd "Captain Mike" Michael and a bunch of other geezers.  This was a golden opportunity for me to practice my Dale Carnegie skills.  I became Mr. Warmth and Charm.

There were no promises, but I could tell everyone liked me.  What's not to like, especially when I turn on the ol' DC charm?  (Dale Carnegie)

PacEx was going to be based in Chico California a college town 90 miles north of Sacramento, the state capital.  They were flying 7 or 8 BAC 1-11s, leased from British Aerospace.  The planes had been traded in by British Caledonian Airlines. 

The understanding was that PacEx would eventually be buying new BAE 146s when they could afford them.

Several PacEx classes were coming through the school and eventually, the Director Of Operations, Gordy James, attended one.  This was the key guy for my plans and I was at my most charming.  I was also persistent and assertive.  Gordy agreed to give me an interview, perhaps just to get me off his case.  

This was not exactly the airline job of my dreams.  The pay for pilots was minimal, $32,000 salary for captains, $18,000 for first officers.  No opportunity to earn more.  Captains at USAir were probably making more than $100,000 at that time.  However, I was realistic and knew that I needed this job to advance my career and to escape USAir.  

I have no memory of the interview, but I got the job.  It would be several months before my class started, so I continued at USAir during that time.  In fact, while I was attending my PacEx ground school, I was still an instructor for USAir and actually taught myself in class.  I was on sign in sheets as both instructor and student.  I talked to the top guy at the FAA inspectors office about that and he said he had no problem with it.  He understood what was going on.

During the time all this was going on, we were moving into the new school.  Doc Watson's mother in law had died during open heart surgery and had built up a big blood bank debt.  He asked some of the guys if they would volunteer to go to the blood bank in Pittsburgh to help paying some of it back.  You know my attitude toward volunteering.

Several of us piled in Quinzi's car and drove dahntahn.  While we were sitting in the waiting room, a very attractive young woman walked through and Wally Bixler asked her a question.  She stopped and gave him a very thoughtful answer.  I was impressed with the way she seemed at ease among a group of 5 or 6 guys who all knew each other.

Momentarily, I was called for an interview and as fate would have it, the attractive young woman was my interviewer.  I still had my scraggly beard, so when I had an opportunity, I asked her if she would go out with a guy who had a beard.  She said she would, as long as the beard got long and soft before things started getting serious.  ( I knew I would be shaving it soon, but it was a good conversation starter.)  She asked me why a guy my age did not have a wife.  I asked her if she had ever heard of divorce.  It was becoming a fun interview.  I asked for her number and she wrote it on a band aid wrapper.  (I learned later that she contemplated writing a bogus number, but decided to give me the real deal.)  This was June 23, 1982.

I called her, but she was doing something with her two sisters for a few days.  One was visiting from out of town.  Finally, she agreed to meet me at a bagel shop near her apartment.  Things went well and she told me she was going to join some friends for the holiday celebration in the city and invited me to join them.  It was July 4th.

We had a great time and next day, I took her and a couple of her friends for a ride in a Mooney that belonged to a friend who had been a student.  The attractive young woman's name is Doreen and she got sick and threw up in a sick sack in the plane over Pittsburgh.  It was a hot and hazy day, with no horizon and she sometimes suffers from motion sickness.  Not a good combination.

Things moved along quickly.  Doreen and I were spending lots of time together.  One day, I rented a Cherokee Six from the FBO, that Jim Weber was managing in Grove City, PA.  I flew it with Doreen and a load of friends to Niagara Falls.


We had done some hiking on the Laurel Mountain Trail near Seven Springs and found we had lots in common.  I had been playing racket ball with Holtzer and my room mate, Bill.  I bought Doreen a racket for her birthday and started teaching her how to play.

I don't remember the exact timing, but soon I learned about the results of my PacEx interview and I talked to Doreen about getting married and moving to California with me.  I knew we hadn't known each other very long and told her to take her time thinking about it. It was a gigantic step and I wanted to give her space to make a decision.  It had been 8 years since my divorce and she was the first girl friend I had in that time who made me want to jump back into all that again. 

It seemed ironic that I had been actively avoiding getting into a serious relationship all this time to allow myself to be flexible and air mobile (as we Viet Nam era vets called it), so that I could move any where I needed to for a job and then when I got one, I met someone who I did not want to leave behind.


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