I grew up on a small farm in Shoshone County, Idaho. Like all small farms, we were pretty much self-sustaining: Most of our food was grown except for the staples (sugar, flour, salt, pepper, etc.). We also had milk cows, which I hated to milk.
At 15 years of age, my step-dad and I weren’t getting along. I asked permission to move to the Gooding Airport and work for Western aircraft, which was owned by Jim Wilkins. I worked there until I finished high school; I fueled aircraft, helped with maintenance, took weather observations and sent them to the Boise weather service.
While working for Jim, I acquired my pilot’s license. My first lesson was on December 9, 1962. I soloed the same day with only 2.5 hours under my belt. I didn’t receive my pilot’s license until February 27, 1964. Back then, you could fly pretty much wherever you wanted once you soloed, so why rush to get the private license except to carry people?
In 1964, I moved to Wrangell, Alaska. I worked on the green chain and drove a forklift and carrier for the Wrangell saw mill. I also drove a garbage truck. For fun, I did a lot of boating and some floatplane flying. I could have gotten my seaplane rating but didn’t.
While in Alaska, I joined the army. I did my basic training and advance infantry at Fort Ord, California. I completed Jump school at Fort Bragg, Carolina. While I was there, I joined the Special Forces. Due to a severe reaction of the wool blankets issued to us, I received a medical discharge.
For a few years, I just kind of played around and worked for road construction companies. In 1979, I started to work for AVI in Twin Falls, Idaho (owned by Pete Lazoras) as an apprentice mechanic. I worked towards my Airframe and Powerplant Certificate and advanced pilot’s licenses. I acquired my commercial pilot’s license in 1979; instrument, single engine instructors and A&P in 1980; and the Inspection Authorization in 1982.
I moved to California in 1982 and worked for Art Scholl, taking care of his airshow and movie aircraft. In my spare time, I also worked as a flight instructor. My first two jobs were to repair Art’s Electra 12A and the super chipmunk. The 12A had suffered damage when it broke loose from its tie-down and the tail end hit the side of a hanger. The chipmunk had experienced engine failure and landed in a cornfield on its way back from the East Coast.
While at Art Scholl’s, I acquired my multi- engine and multi-engine instructor’s license at FlaBob airport on May 1, 1983. My instructor was Flavio Madariaga, one of the owners of FlaBob airport. Unfortunately, Flavio and his wife were killed a few years later in a plane accident at the airport. I kept working for Art until he was killed in the filming of Top Gun in 1985.
Next, I went to work for Burlingame Industries as a maintenance supervisor for their various companies. While working for Bob Burlingame, I had the honor of teaching his two young sons and future wife to fly. I assisted them in attaining their private pilot’s licenses in a new PA-32-301—a lot of airplane to learn in, but all three did a great job.
In 1981, I moved back to Idaho and went to work again for Pete Lazoras at AVI. When Pete sold the company shortly thereafter to Bill and Barbara Every, I continued to work for them as shop manager and chief flight instructor. While working at AVI, I attained my Airline Transport Rating.
After the Averys decided to sell AVI and move to Greely, Colorado, I applied for a position with the FAA and was hired. I worked for the FAA in Fresno, California for a few years, but I decided it wasn’t my cup of tea and went to work for Rogers Helicopters in Fresno and Clovis.
In 2002, I moved back to the farm in Idaho, which I had purchased from the folks. I thought I’d retire on my social security and relax. Relaxing didn’t happen—not only did aircraft owners wanted me to work on their planes, others wanted me to teach them how to fly. I worked out of customers’ hangers in Magic Valley until the maintenance building became available at the Buhl Airport. I took over the facility on August 2008 and fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams of operating an airport.