Karen Brabant and Charles Manning
This month, The Friday Flyer invited any resident who has been involved in air or space travel of any kind to answer questions for an April issue of the paper. Several responded with interesting stories about being pilots or working in different areas of the aviation industry.
Featured in this week’s issue are Robert Cupery, Marvin Griswold, Dave Harrigan, Charles Manning, Thomas Nagle and David Spraul. Karen Brabant adds a brief description of her “harrowing” and “proud” moments as a private pilot, which were two of the questions on the form that appeared in The Friday Flyer. (Not everyone followed the form.)
Karen says, as a private pilot of a Cessna 172 since 1988, she has flown all over California. Her most “harrowing” moment was when she was asked by the Van Nuys tower to do a “short landing.” She agreed and, after landing and turning onto the taxiway, she looked back to see a C-130 landing right behind her.
Karen says, “The pilot of the C-130 told the tower to ‘tell the little lady thank you.’”
She adds that one of her “proudest accomplishments” was flying a friend to another city when her father became critically ill. “She would not have made it in time if she had to drive,” says Karen.
The other respondents had a little bit longer stories. First up is Charles Manning (because he has the most recent picture, taken this week).
Charles has been “up in the air” for a long time. He started learning how to fly at a small flight school at the age of 15. He became a private pilot, a flight instructor, a commercial airline pilot and an airline transport pilot. An Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate is the highest level of aircraft pilot license.
Charles has flown for more than 55 years and still flies his personal Cessna. He retired professionally two years ago and says he has flown most makes of civilian aircraft.
“I flew for flight schools, charter companies, private jets, small regional carriers, Eastern Airlines, and United Airlines for over 25 years, mostly as captain on the 737 and A-320 Airbus,” he says. “I have had engine fires, failures and extremely challenging weather events. It was a blast – most of the time.”
Charles adds, “Probably my proudest moment was when I was the youngest four-engine jet captain (civilian) flying in the ‘left seat.’ I always delivered.”
Robert Rink Cupery is a manufacturing executive who, in 2015, was awarded the Federal Aviation Association’s “Charles E. Taylor Master Mechanic Award” for more than 50 years in an aviation maintenance career without ever having a certification revoked. The impact of Bob’s career with Northrop Corporation and in his own business, Aircraft Window Repairs, is far-reaching.
Born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, Bob served in the U.S. Air Force from 1962 to 1966. During that time, he worked on the F-101 Voodoo supersonic jet fighter under the nickname, “Voodoo Medicine Man.”
In 1966, he moved to California to attend the Northrop Institute of Technology. After graduation, he was hired by Northwest Airlines in St. Paul, Minnesota where he worked on Boeing 707, 727 and Lockheed Electras.
In 1969, he moved back to California and was hired by Northrop Corporation to be a flight engineer on their newly purchased corporate jet, the Gulfstream. In this capacity, he flew over 2 million miles, visiting 35 countries, meeting numerous business executives and celebrities.
He recalls the last day of February 1972 when, after being granted the FAA’s first commercial operator air taxi certificate for a Gulfstream II, they had their first customer: Howard Hughes.
Hughes wanted to fly out of Managua, Nicaragua following a devastating earthquake and was accompanied by an entourage of six, along with “countless worn and torn, tattered cardboard cartons filled with reels of Jane Russell movies.” Bob recalls Hughes’ personal catering request: cheese and crackers.
Later that month, the flight crew undertook the first of several 10-day tours with Sonny and Cher. They were on a roll.
Bob says, “By the first week of April, we were touring with the man they would call ‘King of Rock and Roll.’ This was the beginning of a good business relationship with Elvis Presley. On our initial trip with Elvis, they filmed the movie ‘Elvis on Tour,’ with many scenes showing the plane at different venues throughout the trip.”
The Gulfstream became “California One” during Reagan’s second term as Governor. Bob says other regular users during the jet’s commercial period from 1972 to 1975 were Lucille Ball, Sammie Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Bob Hope, the band Chicago, Rod Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the Mamas and the Papas, and Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass.
“Although Frank Sinatra had his own G-II during that time, he flew with us on two separate occasions,” says Bob.
He adds, “We had terrific support and encouragement in our scheme to defray cost of ownership by outside charter, but Northrop had a legitimate need for the plane and it was used most often in that business capacity.”
Once Bob and his wife Kathi started having children, Bob put his flying career behind him and took on the new title of Service Engineer, transferring to Northrop’s Customer Relations/Marketing Department. He also was a tech advisor on the F5 Freedom Fighter.
In 1983, he finished his career at Northrop as International Quality Assurance Manager. In the meantime, the business he had founded in 1979, Aircraft Window Repairs, was starting to thrive.
The company was providing individual, corporate and airline customers with window repair services at a fraction of the cost of window and lens replacement. It was the first FAA-certified repair station for aircraft windows anywhere. In 2005, the company received the FAA’s Certificate of Excellence Diamond Award.
In one of the recommendation letters submitted on Bob’s behalf for the FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award, Elias Cotti wrote, “Beyond this business accomplishment, Bob gives unselfishly to the aviation community. Bob champions numerous aviation maintenance professional development activities . . . With his positive attitude, strong morals and ethics, Bob is a tremendous asset to aviation and I’m confident that you will agree that Bob is an exemplary role model for many to follow.”
Dave Harrigan was a U.S. Air Force maintenance officer from 1965 to 1981, and an aerospace safety engineer at Lockheed Martin from 1982 to 1993.
While serving in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, Dave maintained the C-7A Caribou (90 aircraft) used as a tactical airlifter to supply the battlefront with troops and supplies and evacuate casualties in the Vietnam War. It was a cargo aircraft with short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability.
From 1970 to 1973, Dave was the maintenance engineer for the C-5A Galaxy’s Operational Test Group. During this assignment, he provided the Secretary of the Air Force with a briefing on the then “state-of-the-art” Malfunction Analysis Detection & Recording System (MADARS).
The airlifter supported U.S. military operations in all major conflicts including Vietnam, Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. It has also been used to distribute humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and supported the U.S. Space Shuttle program.
From 1973 to 1976, Dave maintained the C-141 Starlifter transports at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (This wasn’t included in Dave’s notes, but according to wikipedia.org, in October 1973, C-141s and C-5s airlifted supplies from the United States to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War as part of Operation Nickel Grass. Over the course of the operation, C-141s flew 422 missions and carried a total of 10,754 tons of cargo.)
Dave says maintaining the C-7As, C-5As and the C-141s in top operational readiness was very gratifying.
He adds, “Perhaps even more significant during my career was my work with Lockheed Martin/NASA, which contributed, to some extent, to the expeditious victory in the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm).
Thomas J. Nagle has been involved in both the building and flying of aircraft. He received his private pilot training at Douglas Aircraft, where he also worked in design, supervision, operations, training and marketing. As a private pilot from 1966 to 2006, he flew mostly Cessna aircraft.
Tom has flown all over the United States and, in describing a “harrowing moment” as a pilot, he says, “While flying my aircraft, another airplane flew into my airspace, forcing me to make evasive maneuvers.”
Working for Douglas Aircraft, Tom worked on the DC8, DC9, DC10 and MD11. Among his proudest accomplishments while working at Douglas Aircraft was managing efforts to sponsor control of aircraft cabin air quality. He provided court testimony that was instrumental in having smoking no longer allowed on airplanes due to the effects of secondhand smoke on flight attendants.
Delta Airlines presented him with the Flying Colonel award “in recognition of outstanding support.”
In 2007, while working as a program manager for the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Wing at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Tom was a member of the Federal Aviation Administration representing civil and commercial GPS in the United States.
The front cover of the May 2007 GPS World trade journal featured Tom and described his work as follows: “As a member of the Federal Aviation Administration representing civil and commercial GPS in the U.S. Air Force’s GPS Wing, Tom communicates the equities of the civil and commercial GPS users to his military counterparts, and watches acquisition efforts to protect those equities. In coming years, this effort will track acquisition of the next-generation satellite and ground systems, transition to the improved ground segment, completion of launching the remaining IIR-M satellites, and the successful deployment of the IIF satellites.”
Tom says it was a great honor to be on the cover of GPS World magazine featuring “50+ Leaders to Watch.” He’s also had the privilege of attending many satellite launches at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Tom was a Canyon Lake City Councilman in the last half of the 1990s. He had to resign as mayor after taking a job with the Federal Aviation Administration in Washington DC.
David Spraul was a private pilot who got his training at Collins-Dietrich Flight Service at the Torrance Airport, as well as from Purdue University Flight School and Bob Heer of Corona Airport. He flew from 1965 to 67, 1976 to 77 and 1995 to 2007.
Planes he has flown are the Aeronca 7ac, Tri Champ, and Cessna 150, 172 and 175. He has flown to 22 airports in California – from Porterville in the North to Montgomery Field in the south (San Diego area) to Blythe in the east.
David describes his “most harrowing moment” by saying, “At Purdue University, my instructor and I started a training flight in a Cessna 150. The engine had 997 hours of flight time. After our flight, the airplane was to be taken out of service so the engine could be completely rebuilt.”
He continues, “On takeoff, at an elevation of 300 feet, there was a loud ‘boom’ from the engine. The RPM dropped from max power of 2650 to 1600. No matter what power setting we tried, 1600 was the max RPM. Fortunately, it was a cold day, 33 degrees; therefore, the air was dense. We were able to limp around the traffic pattern and land safely. It turns out an exhaust valve let loose and punched a hole in the top of the piston.”
Marvin Griswold’s 40 years in the airline industry started prior to the introduction of jet aircraft. As a young man, he worked for a small helicopter airline that flew air mail throughout the Los Angeles basin.
Marvin says, “We initially flew a small Sikorsky S-51 helicopter that carried bags of mail in the cockpit and in a compartment located in the tail cone. One glorious day, we received delivery of Sikorsky S-55 aircraft with two seats in the cockpit. My new job was to offload mail bags at each stop, after which I’d climb up into the cockpit and commence learning to fly helicopters from the pilots who took me under their wings (or in this case, under their rotor blades).”
During those years he would get up at 4 a.m. to go to work, get home long enough to kiss his wife, Dorothy, and their babies, then head off to school where he was majoring in math. As his career shifted, his education turned to law, specifically in the area of air transport labor.
As an administration officer, he flew often, spending more time in the field than at a desk.
He says, “I could fill a book with interesting experiences. They would include taking a delegation to the Paris Air Show in a Lear Jet, followed by visiting 10 countries in a two-week period in that Lear.” The Paris Air Show is an event held every other year where new aircraft, both commercial airline and military, are introduced to the world. Most nations and most air carriers are in attendance.
Marvin says it would take a book (which he is writing) to describe all his interesting experiences in the airline industry. But he does mention a couple of highlights:
On a proving run, he got to sightsee throughout South America on a Braniff Airways Concorde SST. He also took a “fun trip” on an Aero Spacelines Super Guppy, having to use oxygen when flying over 20,000 feet. This was the aircraft that flew missiles from the West Coast for their launch in Florida. And then there was the time he arranged for Dorothy to pilot a DC-10 in a flight simulator.
Marvin says his most fulfilling memories are from his negotiations that improved the lives of airline employees and their families, including pilots, flight engineers, attendants, instructors, dispatchers, mechanics, and all the rest.
He says, “I had the pleasure of interfacing with executives of Pan American World Airways, Western Airlines, PSA, Air California, Aero Spacelines, Aero Mexico, Air India, ARINC,
Avianca, Braniff, Air Canada, Continental, Flying Tigers, Golden West, LASCA, Northwest, Overseas National, Saturn, Seaboard World, SAS, KLM Royal Dutch, SFO Helicopters, TIA and World Airways.
After he retired from 40 years in the airline industry, Marvin became co-chair of Northwest Airlines’ Board of Directors Audit Committee, serving with executives from Walt Disney, Marriott and other big name companies.
He says, “The airline industry has changed dramatically over these 40 years and so have I. I’ve gotten 40 years older – and have had a great journey!”