R-MA Alumni: Flying Through the Ages
The following article will appear in the spring edition of "The Sabre" magazine.
Although the R-MA Flight Program as it exists today began in 1985, R-MA cadets and alumni have a solid history of taking to the skies either for military service, commercial service, or leisure. Recently in the Dome Dispatch, the Alumni E-newsletter, we sent out a note “Calling All Pilots”, and we received responses from alumni aviators spanning 60 years! Here are their stories:
Major Everett E. Worrell, Jr. ’40 flew B-17 aircraft in the 532nd Bomb Squadron, 381st Bomb Group, as First Pilot and Aircraft Commander in 35 combat missions during World War II. He was awarded six air medals while serving with the 8th Air Force flying over Germany in 1944. His plane, “Patches” had more than 300 holes in it when they got back to England, but not a single man on the crew suffered a scratch. He flew his last combat mission on January 2, 1945. After WWII, Worrell left the military, but was recalled during the Korean War, specializing in electronics and communications until he retired in 1970.
Lt Col Richard L. Davis ’49 graduated from USAF Pilot training on January 18, 1955. In the course of his 20-year career, he flew the C-124, T-33, B-26, C-47, C-121 (Constellation), C-130, and the C-141. He ended his Air Force career as the Commander of the 57th Military Airlift Squadron at Altus AFB, OK.
Colonel Kenneth W. Pastore ’58 notes that he was the first R-MA graduate to attend the United States Air Force Academy, receiving an appointment as a member of the USAFA Class of 1962. He chose not to continue after the first summer at the Academy and accepted a previously offered spot at Duke University, where he was a member of the USAF ROTC program. Pastore completed the Flight Instruction Program (FIP) in a Piper Colt, received his private pilot license and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the USAF in June of 1962. His first operational assignment was the then-new F-4 Phantom at MacDill AFB, FL and in the following 14 years, he flew five different models of the F-4 in Okinawa, Thailand, Korea, Alaska and as an instructor at MacDill AFB. After a three-year tour at HQ Tactical Air Command as Chief, Weapons and Tactics, he transitioned into the F-15 Eagle through the Fighter Weapons School course at Nellis AFB, NV. Pastore flew the Eagle from ’78-’83 at Eglin AFB, FL and then at Kadena AB in Okinawa. He retired from the Air Force in October 1992 with 34 years of service and over 4000 hours of “pure fighter time.” He said they often remarked that “we would have ‘paid them’ to let us fly those fighters…while it wasn’t all fun, it was certainly memorable.”
Sewell “Toby” Frey ’62 has over 15,000 hours of flight time. He entered the USAF in 1968 where he flew the T-41, T-37, T-38, AT-33, F-86H, and A-37B for a total of 14 years including time with the Maryland Air National Guard. He was hired by Eastern Airlines in 1972 and spent 20 years flying L-188s, DC-9s, and B-727s. He also flew for ValueJet, AirTran, and JetBlue, all in DC-9s. Frey became an instructor for more than 10 years with Flight Safety International where he instructed in the F-70, F-100, Bombardier Global Express, Gulfstream G-V, and various Flying Safety Courses.
Stephen Shankle ’76 has had flying in his blood for as long as he can remember. He managed to get his private pilot license in the summer of his junior year while attending R-MA. His father and flight instructor Joel Shankle ‘51 was an American Airlines pilot at the time. Stephen joined AFROTC while in college; after graduation he spent eight years active duty, including time in flight school and completing two tours in Europe. He flew the OV-10 out of Sembach, Germany and the A-10 from RAF Bentwaters. Now, after 25 years with Delta Airlines, he’s flying the left seat as a B-737-800 captain.
Kevin Vohs ’91 learned to fly at R-MA. His instructor was Mr. Sheehy, the father of John Sheehy ’92. Vohs grew up in a family of pilots. His great grandfather was a WWI pilot, and his grandfather and brothers were military or civilian pilots. He’s not sure at what age he became interested in flying, but there is a picture of him, at five years old, demonstrating a near-perfect aileron roll of his toy airplane. Vohs has been flying since he was 16 years old and has flown a variety of planes from the two-seat single-engine planes to the one he’s flying now, a turbojet with a capacity of 159 seats. After becoming a licensed pilot, he went on to become a flight instructor in Union City, TN. Later, he became a corporate pilot flying twin turboprops and business jets. In 2000 he was hired by Northwest Airlink and after seven years with them, joined JetBlue Airways where he currently flies the Airbus A320, based at JFK in New York, NY. Vohs says he enjoys where his job takes him, allowing him to visit the Caribbean and California. One of his fondest memories is when Colonel Ivan Mieth, former R-MA commandant, pinned the solo wings on Vohs’ R-MA uniform in front of a chapel full of cadets. “Deep down I think we all wanted to make Col. Mieth proud, and for that moment, I felt like he really might have been,” Vohs said. “That was the highlight of my personal and professional career.” Vohs once told Mieth that he wanted to be a pilot like he was. Mieth said, “Well, just don’t do what I did and fly a plane that goes low and slow where everyone can shoot at you.” Vohs said, “I took your advice, Colonel! You are missed, sir.” Vohs and his R-MA roommate, Corey Slone ‘92 sometimes meet during layovers and catch up on the good ol‘ days.
Corwin “Corey” S. Slone ’92 wanted to be a pilot since he took his first trip on a Braniff 727 when he was five years old. Slone came to R-MA in 1989 as a sophomore interested in the flight program and a career in the military. He began ground school and flying with Michael Turner ’86; he soloed on a windy day in Winchester on May 11, 1991. After R-MA, Slone went to Texas A&M University where he joined the flying club and completed his private pilot license. Due to cutbacks in Operation Desert Storm, pilot slots were rare so he chose a civilian aviation career, and as a back-up he majored in Construction Science. After graduating in 1996 Slone worked in the oil fields for five years while building up flight time and gathering licenses. He quit his “real” job and became a flight instructor and flew skydivers to build more flight time. From there he became a King Air 200 Captain, flying freight, charter, and air ambulance missions. In 2004 he got a job with Flight Options flying a BE-400 Beechjet as a fractional pilot. In February of 2006, Slone was hired at Continental Airlines as a First Officer on the Boeing 737. With the merger, he is now flying for United Airlines and has flown the B-737, B-757, B-767, and currently the B-777.
Slone said, “Flying is a difficult but rewarding career. There is a lot of ‘paying your dues’ to get to the majors. It takes dedication and perseverance to continue to the skies. Over the span of 22 years of flying, I have seen most of the U.S. on my layovers, including Hawaii and Alaska. I have also flown as far as Japan, India, Argentina, Europe, Africa, and several places in between. It is hard to believe this all started in N96096 a C-152 at KFRR in January 1991! Thank you to my parents, Michael Turner, and R-MA!”
James “Rico” Rawlins ’92 graduated with honors from Delaware State University in 1996 with a degree in aircraft systems management. Afterwards he became a flight instructor at DSU until 1999. When he had built up enough flight time, he went to work for Continental Express, now Express Jet Airlines. Rawlins was promoted to Captain in 2001 flying the ATR 42 (turbo prop) and EMB 145 (50 seat jet). In 2006 he went to work for Southwest Airlines flying a Boeing 737. He has been flying out of BWI for the last six years. He said he loves it and hopes he can inspire someone to become a pilot one day.
Christopher Patseavouras ’95 is currently a senior at Liberty University Online, finishing his degree in aeronautics with a minor in Christian counseling. Patseavouras learned to fly at R-MA with Flight Instructor John Angeny who presently flies for Delta Airlines. He remembers his first flight at R-MA and how airsick it made him—he laid down in his bunk that night and the room was still spinning. At the time he thought he didn’t have what it took. After R-MA, Patseavouras went to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical school in Prescott, AZ for one year. He gave up flying, but not for long—he learned to fly a second time at a grass strip airport in Greensboro, NC called Air Harbor. It was there he realized he wanted to teach flying because flying instilled him with self-confidence. Patseavouras received his Private Pilot certificate in October 1997.
Currently, he is a corporate pilot for Flight Group Corporation in Raleigh, NC. He has 4,500 hours, an ATP, and Type rating in the Citation Jet. He serves as a Part 135 Instructor on the King Air, FAAST Team Member for the FAA, and is most passionately an instructor (CFII/MEI) with over 1500 hours of dual given. Patseavouras said his favorite plane to fly is whatever one he happens to be in that day!
Kelvin Ampofo ’96 started R-MA in the seventh grade and had obtained almost every type of award or medal there was that he could wear on his uniform, except the pilot wings. He decided to start the flight program initially to get the wings to wear on his uniform; however, during flight training he fell in love with flying. Ampofo continued on to Embry-Riddle, earning his B.S. in aeronautical science. He started flying right out of college. He flew trips to Canada and even flew the President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) on business trips. Some of the planes he has flown have been the Piper Navajo, King Air, Cessna Citation, Socato Tampico Tb-9, a Piper Mooney, Cadet, Archer Tri Pacer and Seminole, Grumman Cougar, Beechcraft Bonanza, Baron, Waco, and even the Good Year Blimp! Ampofo said that he has also flown helicopters but enjoy the airplanes more. Although he’s not flying now, he remembers an emergency night landing he had to make and said that he used his training from R-MA to land safely.
Fred Gould ’96 knew he wanted to fly when he was four years old. His father worked as an airline mechanic and the pilots would always let him visit the cockpit and sit in their seats. Gould’s parents decided to send him to R-MA, not because of his desire to become a pilot, but because of his academic performance and behavior in public school. The fact that R-MA was an Air Force prep school with a flight program and United Methodist Church affiliation made it their number one choice. Gould started at R-MA the summer prior to his sophomore year. He remembers making a 180-degree change with his grades and attitude, which resulted in his parents allowing him to start flight training his junior year. A three-week break from flying due to a poor progress report from a teacher was enough to motivate him to keep his grades up. He soloed in December 1994 and about a month before graduating earned his private pilot license—a few weeks before obtaining his driver’s license. Gould then went to the Community College of Beaver County near his home outside of Pittsburgh, PA, graduating in December 1997 with an associate’s degree in professional piloting and all of the necessary licenses and ratings. After a year of working three flying jobs, he was hired by CommutAir, a regional airline for US Airways Express flying the Beechcraft 1900D turboprop. Although he was laid off a few days after 9/11, Gould soon obtained a job for Flight Options, a fractional aircraft ownership company based in Cleveland, OH flying the Beechjet 400A. The very first Captain he flew with at Flight Options was Brian Gross—one of his flight instructors at R-MA during his senior year! Gross introduced Gould to the finer points of flying a jet aircraft, a far cry from the Cessna 152’s they last flew together. After three years at Flight Options, Gould jumped at the opportunity to work for a charter company in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He was hired at Voyager Jet Center in October 2004 and spent the next eight years flying as Captain on Beechjet 400A, Hawker 400XP, Hawker 700/800/850XP/900XP, Citation Sovereign and Citation X. He left Voyager Jet Center in October 2012 to take a position as a Citation X Captain at Corporate Air, also in Pittsburgh.
Gould said, “My 18 years as a pilot has allowed me to experience things beyond my wildest dreams.” Some advice he would give to aspiring pilots would be the words that Col Ivan Mieth once told him: “Make safety your number one priority. That will keep you alive longer than anything else.” The next bit of advice would be: “Never give up, and dedicate yourself to your studies. A lot of pilots give up after their first solo or after getting their private pilot license because they discover that there is an immense amount of material one must learn to advance to the next level. You must have the desire to learn the material and have an interest in what you are doing if you want to succeed.”
Jessica (Fekete) Tracey ’01 started her aviation career as a junior at R-MA under the instruction of John Papp. She went on to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and is currently a Captain at Republic Airlines flying the Q-400.
Daniel Desjardins ’03 started flying in Canada and soloed at the ripe age of 14 with a dream of flying for Air Canada. In August of 2000, he came to R-MA and signed up for the flight program with 20 hours or so already under his belt. Because the rules are different between the countries, he soloed again when he was 16 on the cold blistery day of February 13, 2001. After R-MA, Desjardins went on to Indiana State University and completed his pilot licenses including an instructor certificate. By 2005, he was a King Air instructor and chief pilot, flying business travel with university executives. In April 2007, Desjardins got the phone call and interview with Air Canada, only one month before he graduated with a BS in Aerospace Technology. Once he moved back to Canada, he flew the Brazilian Embraer Jet from 2007-2009. Desjardins upgraded to the Airbus A319/320/321 fleet at Air Canada, flying longer and more interesting routes. Seasonally he flies from St John’s Newfoundland to London, England in a small A319 aircraft. In September of this past year, he moved up to B-767, allowing him to fly more routes to places such as London, Paris, Rome, Switzerland, and Israel. Desjardins has currently logged over 5500 flight hours, of which 4000 are in the jet. He continues to fly for Air Canada and experience interesting cultures and cities. Desjardins still has 30+ years of flying left in him, and with that, hopes to be promoted to Captain one of these days.
R. Brandon Wilkins ’03 graduated from the Citadel in 2007. After receiving his commission as a Marine, he attended The Basic School (TBS) and Flight School in Pensacola, FL and Kingsville, TX. He earned his wings on October 31, 2010 in Texas and then reported to NAS Oceana, VA from November 2010 to August 2011, to learn how to fly the F/A-18 Hornet. Wilkins then reported to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC in the Fall of 2011 and deployed on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) for her final combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, flying close air support missions in Afghanistan. Serving with the “Thunderbolts” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 (VMFA-251), Wilkins has logged over 500 hours in the Hornet, with over 800 hours of total military time. During his deployment he also earned the designation of Landing Signal Officer (LSO), responsible for the safe recovery and grading of each pilot’s landing aboard the carrier.
Jordan Rice ’05 began his flying career at R-MA under the instruction of Laura Abraham in 2004. He went on to solo shortly after his 16th birthday (he waited a few extra days for his roommate, Mark Holden ’06, to turn 16 so they could solo at the same time). He went on to continue his education and training at Florida Tech, where he earned his BS and MS (pending graduation this Spring) in aviation-related disciplines. Rice taught students at the university for three years as an instructor (CFI/CFII/MEI) before going to work for American Eagle Airlines, a subsidiary of American Airlines. He’s flown large turboprops and ‘regional jets’ across the US, to Cuba, the Bahamas, and most islands in the Caribbean as a First Officer.
Chase Beatty ’09 always had a goal to fly in some capacity, either as a civilian or in the military. Now a Marine, Beatty doesn’t fly much anymore but he does tag on to some rides in the military aircraft rotor wing. He has flown Piper arrows, Cessna 172, and Cessna 152 as well as a Diamond. Beatty remembers flying to Oklahoma and says that it was very interesting because the whole state was flat and visibility was great. While he was there he got to fly in a storm. Beatty said, “Flight at R-MA was more about overcoming obstacles and that was what kept me coming back. I like a good challenge and flight always presented that for me. I still love flying to this day.”
Jacob Kaczmarek ’10 is currently an instrument-rated commercial multi/single engine pilot. He had his check ride for his CFI in January and is working on his instrument instructor rating with the goal of working as a Flight Instructor in 2013.
We know we have many more pilots out there. If you are interested in sharing your story, please e-mail Ann Brander, Director of Alumni Relations, at email@example.com. Stay tuned to the R-MA Dome Dispatch for future career spotlights!