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The Aviation Speakers Bureau has keynote speakers and motivational speakers for every engagement. View videos and read speaker biographies by selecting a topic or speaker's name:
The Following Are Trubutes to Our Speakers Gone West
In Memory of Chas Harral
9-15-1939 to 6-27-2002
He was affectionately called ‘Bad Chas’, a nickname he earned for shutting down one engine on unsuspecting applicants during multi-engine check rides. He was loved and respected by the thousands in his audiences and his hundreds of flight students, many of them now flying heavy iron.
‘Bad Chas’ was a teddy bear of a guy—bright, articulate, funny and generous.
On June 27, we lost one of our finest speakers. Chas amazed the medical community, putting up a valiant fight with painful pancreatic cancer for nearly a year. His beautiful, loving wife and constant companion, Von, said he never complained and he never questioned, ‘Why me’?” But those that knew Chas well wouldn’t be surprised in this. In his life, Chas just never did complain.
Chas was best known for his gripping presentation on awareness and personal vigilance known as The Color Code System. In addition to his personal appearances, this safety program is broadcast on satellite television to subscribing cities and governments. Chas had a uniquely dramatic way of speaking, using vivid mind pictures. Clients claim his safety program has saved them millions of dollars, injuries and lives. Here at the bureau, we felt good when booking his programs as we might then help to save injury and lives too. His banquet keynote program, As The Examiner Sees It, would get the pilots howling with laughter. Chas would tell his humorous aviation stories gathered in his 20 years of flights as an FAA designated pilot examiner.
Chas taught hundreds of aviation safety courses across the United States including many Flight Instructor Revalidation Clinics for AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation. After discovering aviation in 1962, he became a Flight Instructor in 1963. He opened his own flight school in 1967, which eventually grew into one of the largest operations of its kind in the southwest. In his fleet, a P-51 Mustang was one of his favorites to fly. Chas safely logged in excess of 13,000 hours of flight time, gave 9,000 hours of flight instruction, and administered more than 5,000 flight tests for pilot certificates and ratings.
In memory of Cliff Robertson
Celebrity, Aviator, September 9, 1923 to September 10, 2011
After a brief journalistic career, Cliff Robertson began his acting career on Broadway in the mid fifties. Singled out for his promising work on the stage, the young actor was chosen by Joshua Logan to appear in his first motion picture, Picnic, in the late fifties. Mr. Robertson continued his theatrical work on Broadway between his motion picture career.
The late President Kennedy personally chose Mr. Robertson to portray his exploits as a naval Lieutenant in the Warner Brothers production of PT-109. Having starred in over 45 major motion pictures, numerous television programs and Broadway plays, Cliff received the Academy Award as “Best Actor in a leading role” for his starring role in the film Charly.
Cliff is an active airplane and glider pilot. He maintains a stable of antique vintage aircraft and is active in his support of aviation. His work on behalf of the Experimental Aircraft Association helped launched and promote the Young Eagles program.
In memory of Denny Fitch
Inspirational, Motivational, CRM
Mr. Fitch is a B-777 Captain for United Airlines. He received a B.S. degree from Duquesne University and his flight training from the United States Air Force. He is President of D.E. Fitch & Associates, Ltd., an aviation consulting firm specializing in Cockpit Resource Management and human factors. Captain Fitch has had the unique experience of crash landing a DC-10 that lost all hydraulics and all flight controls. He and the crew hold the distinguished record of the longest time aloft without flight controls who lived to tell about it.
Captain Fitch has been commended by President George Bush and is the recipient of Senate Resolution 174, 101st Congress for his outstanding effort, poise and courage in assisting the crew in attempting a difficult emergency landing of United Flight 232 at Sioux City, Iowa. He has given numerous presentations to various corporate aviation departments and is also in demand for his inspirational and motivational programs.
Captain Fitch is recognized for his extensive experience as a fight instructor and check airman. He has accumulated over 20,000 hours of flight time and is an FAA check pilot designee. He is also a safety consultant to NASA as a member of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel. Captain Fitch has also been inducted into the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
In memory of Brigadier GeneralRobin Olds
USAF (Ret.)Triple Ace,
Brigadier General Robin Olds is rated a triple ace, having a World War II tally of 13 aerials, 11.5 during airfield strafing runs and, in North Vietnam, four confirmed aerials destroying two MiG 17s and two MiG 21s. In his 30 years of U.S. Air Force service, he flew some 65 different aircraft, including the Spitfire and Typhoon, the P-51, P-80, F-86, Gloster Meteor, F-101C, P-38, F-4 and many other aircraft. Combat missions included 107 in two tours during World War II and 152 in Vietnam, of which 115 were over North Vietnam. He earned his second oak leaf cluster to the Silver Star on January 2, 1967 during his famous “MiG Sweep.”
His third oak leaf cluster to the Silver Star was for “exemplary airmanship, extraordinary heroism and indomitable aggressiveness” in a low-level bombing run against the Thai Ngyen steel mill blast furnaces. He was awarded the Air Force Cross for his part in the famous Paul Doumier Bridge Raid. “General Olds is one of the top Air Force leaders in American history,” states General Steve Ritchie. He is one of our best-loved military leaders. Robin is a powerful, charismatic and witty speaker.
GENERAL OLDS’ MANY DECORATIONS INCLUDE:
Air Force Cross
Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with three oak leaf clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross with five oak leaf clusters
Air Medal with 40 oak leaf clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross (RAF)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Distinguished Service Order (South Vietnam Air Force)
Air Gallantry Medal with Gold Wings (South Vietnam)
In memory of Scott Crossfield
Scott Crossfield is best known for being the first to fly Mach 2 and also the first to successfully fly Mach 3. He flew most of the Research Airplanes, including first flights in the T-39 and the X-15. Scott has received an incredible number of honors and awards for his many contributions to aviation.
His list of accomplishments and credentials are mind boggling. He has a Masters degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a varied professional career. He was a Navy fighter pilot, a Chief Wind Tunnel Operator, a Chief Engineering Test Pilot, an Apollo Program System Director, a Technical Director and held several Vice President positions—all in government and industry. He was a Technical Advisor on aerospace for the U.S. Congress.
His presentation Onward and Upward is a fascinating program on the men and machines of the most productive government research program of record. One that brought us to the threshold of space.
In memory of Captain Dave Gwinn
Radar Expert, Aviation Humorist
Retired airline captain, Dave Gwinn is an aviation journalist, speaker and educator. He holds seventeen pilot ratings, including five current CFI licenses. Dave has been Chief Flight Instructor and General Manager of a 450-student flight training facility, a corporate pilot, a police helicopter instructor and instructed in gyroplanes, gliders and seaplanes. For eleven years, TWA assigned him to the pilot training center teaching and developing training programs for the B707, B727, B767, L1011 and the DC-80.
Dave’s Weather Radar Seminars are internationally respected. He has presented radar and wind shear training to thousands of pilots in the nation’s top corporate flight departments, Part 121 carriers and the military. His seminars have been used as the basis for training developed by three major carriers and two regional airlines.
Dave has a thorough knowledge of his subject and he has the practical experience needed to effectively teach it. He simplifies a difficult topic and keeps the pilots awake and learning with his quick wit and humor. Mr. Gwinn has appeared in Federal Courts as an expert witness in major air carrier mishap litigation, always in the defense of pilots.
Dave has appeared on the Wonderful World of Flyingvideo magazine and Pilots Audio Update. He has written dozens of articles for aviation publications, including Flight Training, IFR, the Navy’s Approach, and a monthly column in Plane and Pilot Magazine.
On the lighter side, Dave’s Skytalk Humorpresentation is just for fun. His humorous tales are gathered from being the instigator, recipient and rarely as an innocent bystander for good stories, humorous exchanges and practical jokes.
His Aviation Safety talk is good for pilots of any experience. Dave is a speaker with The Aviation Speakers Bureau.
Sharing a wealth of aviation experience and humor, Dave Gwinn says “Learning can be fun -- and should be!”
In memory of Pete Campbell
Aviation Humorist, Safety Expert
Pete Campbell passed away in his sleep on Christmas Eve in 1999 at the age of 79. Aviation lost an icon. With his wild aviation stories and bold sense of humor, Pete was a character and pilots just loved him. He had such a joy for life. If Pete was in the room, there would be laughter. He logged 22,000 hours flying airplanes (piston and jet), gliders, rotorcraft, balloons and ultra lights. He flew 56 South Pacific combat missions in a B-24 and was still flying acrobatic shows in his Cessna 150 in his seventies.
As an FAA employee, Pete was the major instigator of the Flight Instructor Revalidation Clinics and the FAA Accident Prevention Programs. Pete would say, “You can’t prove that penalizing a pilot improves safety, but I can prove that education does!” And he did. The numbers proved him right. One cannot fathom how many pilots he has touched with his safety messages as each instructor has passed these lessons on to their students, and their students to the next generation. He taught hundreds of aviation safety seminars and gave 2,800 lectures to 28,000 CFIs across the country.
The Everett-Stewart Airport Terminal in Tennessee was named the Pete Campbell Terminal, honoring his tremendous contributions to aviation. Pete taught us well. He made us laugh like no other could. His incredible contribution to aviation safety is mind-boggling. We will miss you Pete.
In memory of William Lishman
Bill is a pilot, artist, sculptor, filmmaker, author, inventor, naturalist and entrepreneur. In 1988, Bill raised a flock of Canada geese, imprinted them to an ultralight aircraft he designed and built, and flew with the birds around southern Ontario. The success of this work lead to conducting a migration experiment by leading flocks of Canada geese on their journey south by acting as surrogate parents. The experiment was documented by ABC's 20/20 and captured the attention of biologists around the world. The aircraft-led migrations were successful in that the birds learned a safe migration route. This technique could be utilized to restore threatened or endangered migratory waterfowl, which have ceased to migrate.
Bill documented his first flights with Canada geese in the award winning video C'mon Geese. His first book about his work with the geese is in the curriculum of many US public schools. Columbia Pictures produced a feature film entitled Fly Away Home inspired by his career. Bill not only consulted for filming, but also was the stunt double for the lead actor, Jeff Daniels--who was playing Bill! His autobiography FATHER GOOSE (published by McArthur & Company and Crown Publishers) is on the best seller list.
In 1995, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association highest honor, the prestigious AOPA Award, was presented to Bill. In 1996, he received Odessy of The Mind's prestigious Creativity Award (previous recipients have been Walt Disney, Chuck Jones, and NASA). Bill's 21st century earth-integrated domed home has been featured in Equinox and Harrowsmith magazine for its innovative design. His sculptures are displayed in television commercials, IMAX films The Last Buffalo and Titanica, the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame, Canada's Wonderland and EXPO ’86.
In memory of Bob Hoover
Airshow Performer/ Testpilot
Hoover learned to fly at Nashville's Berry field. He worked at a grocery store to earn the money required for flight instructions. Almost immediately, he began to try his hand at rolls and loops and taught himself aerobatics. The young pilot enlisted in the Tennessee National Guard and was later sent to Army Pilot Training.
After Hoover graduated, he was sent to England. Then after the invasion of North Africa by the Allies, he was sent to Casablanca where he tested all types of airplanes that had been transported overseas on ships, then assembled. Bob was 21 years old at the time. He then obtained an assignment with the 52nd Fighter Group stationed in Sicily, one of the two Spitfire outfits in the Army's air forces. He flew 58 successful missions, but was shot down on the 59th off the coast of Southern France. Hoover spent 16 months in Stalag Luft 1, a German prison camp.
Upon returning to the U.S. following the war's end in Europe, Bob was assigned to the Flight Test Division at Wright field, where he test flew for evaluation many of the captured Japanese and German airplanes. He also flew the latest aircraft being tested for our own Air Force. In 1948, he accepted a position with General Motors as a test pilot for high altitude performance testing of Allison jet engines and the development of propellers.
In 1950, Hoover was hired by North American Aviation to do experimental flight testing on all models of the F-86 Sabre jet and the Navy FJ-2 jet fighter and later on, the famous F-100. During these early days with North American, he demonstrated safe handling and flying qualities on F-86 and F-100 series fighters to pilots all over the world. Beyond the normal call of duty, he also flew combat dive bombing missions with Air Force squadrons in Korea, demonstrating the capabilities of the F-86 over enemy territory.
He was the first man to fly the XFJ-2 Fury Jet and the Navy's T-28 trainer and has also set a number of world aviation records including three climb to altitude records of a turbo prop Commander, performed at the Hanover Air Show in West Germany in April 1978. Another coast-to-coast record was set in a P-51 in five hours and 20 minutes from Los Angeles, California to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1985. Hoover also holds a number of world records in jet aircraft and was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Soldier's Medal, Air Medal and Purple Heart. He was presented the Aviation Pioneer Award as the world's most notable, decorated and respected living pilot by Parks College in St. Louis.
He received the Arthur Godfrey Aviation Award from the Minneapolis Aquatennial for accomplishments in flight testing. In 1981, he received the Flying Tiger Pilot Award for his outstanding contribution to aviation. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce awarded him the 1982 Kitty Hawk Award. That same year he received the Wilkinson Silver Sword for his airshow work. He received the Lindbergh Award at the Smithsonian in May of 1986. In August of 1986, Hoover was honored during Bob Hoover Day at the 34th Annual Oshkosh Celebration by the Experimental Aircraft Association ("EAX). He is also an Honorary Member of the Fighter Aces Association and the Eagle Squadron Association. In July of 1988, Bob was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio along with other aviation and space pioneers such as; Neil Armstrong, James Doolittle, Barry Goldwater, Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker, The Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager, Richard Byrd and Howard Hughes.
Hoover served as the back-up and chase pilot to General Chuck Yeager on the X-1flights. Yeager participated in the EAA program honoring Hoover along with other leading citizens of the aviation community.
The recipient of countless awards and honors, Hoover is the only man to serve two terms as President of the exclusive Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He was the Captain of the United States Aerobatic Team, which participated in the 1966 International Competition in Moscow.
In 1988, 1989 and 1990 he was selected as the most outstanding airshow performer of the year and received the number one Showmanship Award from the International Council of Air Shows for 1989. He was presented with the annual Cliff Henderson Memorial Award for contributions to aviation for 1989 at the Ohio Hall of Fame.
Bob Hoover, in over fifty years of flying, has performed many thousands of times in more different types of aircraft, in more countries and before many more millions of people than any other pilot in the history of aviation.
At the bureau he is known as ‘Gentleman Bob’. He is a soft-spoken, honorable man, tall and lean, and he continues to amaze his peers and fans alike for the remarkable enthusiasm he still holds for flying as well as his management activities. His book Forever Flying (1996 Pocket Books) is an aviation must read.
In memory of William G Rheams
Aviation Story Teller
William G. (Bill) Rheams’ first ride aloft was in a Ford Tri-motor in 1929. He flew the B-17 in World War II, again in Air Rescue - with a 35 foot boat slung under it - and on the Atlantic Missile Range in support of the missile launches from Cape Canaveral. He flew several thousands of hours all over the world in dozens of aircraft types, primarily heavy, four to ten engine bombers and transport aircraft. Bill owned the XC-99, the cargo version of the B-36, with six engines on the back of the wings pushing. It had multiple decks and would carry 100,000 pounds of cargo 8,000 miles non-stop. At the time, the XC-99 was the largest aircraft ever to fly operationally. Bill has spent a lifetime in aviation: as a pilot and as a specialist in the recovery of people, missile capsules, nose cones, and various things dropped in the ocean--not always where they were supposed to be. He has acted as a consultant to several airlines in the United States and in Latin America, and has owned, at one time or another, a couple of his own airlines. Rheams is well qualified to tell and write Outrageous Airplane Stories. He brings his peculiar sense of humor to these stories. He is as fascinated by aviation as he was on the day he soloed, fifty-five years ago. Bill says, ?Nothing ordinary has ever happened to me.?
In memory of Robert J. Gilliland
Test Pilot, Historical
May 1, 1926 to July 4, 2019
Bob Gilliland has logged more experimental supersonic flight test time above Mach 2 and Mach 3 than any other pilot. He is a Naval Academy graduate and was a combat jet fighter pilot in Korea, he helped introduce the first American Jets in Europe. As project test pilot for the Lockheed SR-71, he was the first to fly the aircraft. It roared skyward amid the purple-orange blast of maximum afterburner on its maiden flight December 22, 1964. Working with KellyJohnson, the Skunk Works founder and his small group of engineers, Bob was the first to achieve full envelope expansion of speed and altitude in both the SR-71A and SR-71B. Prior to involvement with the A-11/A-12, YF-12A and SR-71, Bob was a Lockheed company test pilot in the F-104 Starfighter at Palmdale, Edwards AFB and in Europe. He held the Kincheloe award as top test pilot by the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and was a trustee of ANA (Association of Naval Aviation). Anyone who heard Bob’s presentation of The Supersonic Age, The Lockheed Skunk Works or Test Piloting left awed, amazed, entertained and educated.
In memory of Dr. Jerry Cockrell
Humorist, Aviation Safety, CRM
July 23, 1943 to September 12, 2021
Dr. Jerry Cockrell was a 20,000-hour airline pilot. He was one of aviation's favorite humorists. Known for his funny sick-sack routine, his Ph.D. was in psychology and education and he was an early developer of CRM. Jerry was a B-737 Captain, international B-747-400 pilot, CRM & Check Airman Instructor, B-737 Simulator Instructor, and a CFI and AGI ratings. Jerry served in the USAF and was a Viet Nam veteran. The Aviation Speakers Bureau had the pleasure of booking Jerry for 35 years. He spoke in all 50 states and in England, Germany, Holland, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Canada and Australia delivering over 3,000 safety and humorous presentations. In the 70's, he taught for the Air Safety Foundation (a division of AOPA) teaching FIRCs and various programs. He was a National Accident Prevention Counselor appointed by the FAA in Washington D. C.
In memory of Captain Al C. Haynes
August 31, 1931 to August 25, 2019
Capt. Haynes gave 2,000 safety presentations, earning money for various charities. He never accepting any money for himself. Al did not want to be called a hero, but he was certainly the best of the best and a gentleman admired by pilots and nonpilots alike.
On July 19, 1989, UA 232 departed DEN at 2:09 p.m. and climbed to 37,000 feet. At 3:16 p.m. the flight radioed MN ATC the number 2 engine had FAILED and the aircraft was marginally controllable. Al Haynes was the Captain of that infamous flight. Capt. Haynes said that 184 people survived due to five main factors: Luck, Communications, Preparation, Execution, and Cooperation. He never mentioned that part of that luck was that he was the captain. His fellow pilots enjoyed flying with him as he was capable, but unassuming. He was generous with a wonderful sense of humor. A good cockpit atmosphere is conducive to excellence in teamwork or CRM. Luck brought that flight a highly skilled, cool-under-fire, respected captain.
Capt. Haynes was born in Paris, TX, attended Texas A&M, afterward then flew as a Marine Aviator until 1956 when he was hired by United Airlines. He flew the DC-6, DC-7, DC-8, Boeing 727, and DC-10 until he retired in 1991, after flying over 27,000 hours. Al was a volunteer umpire for Little League Baseball for the past 40 years and a volunteer stadium announcer for high school football for 35 years.
In memory of Danny Cox
Flew West, November 21, 2021
Danny Cox was a spitfire. He called himself an accelerationist, as he caused faster movement, higher efficiency and increased productivity. He flew supersonic all-weather fighters in the USAF for 10 years. Danny was a test pilot and air show pilot He spoke to groups in local cities where they suffered sonic booms. He was known as The Sonic Boom Salesman. After the Air Force, Danny joined a large sales company. Promoted to sales manager a year later, he led his office to quadrupling records. Four years later, as VP assigned to 8 offices, he taught leadership principles to 8 branch managers. In 5 years, production increased 800%. With the demands for leadership and teamwork techniques in all businesses, Danny packed his bags and traveled the world sharing his techniques. Danny authored several books, including Leadership When the Heat's On, Seize The Day: 7 Steps to Achieving the Extraordinary in an Ordinary World and There Are No Limits: Breaking The Barriers In Personal High
U.S. Navy (Ret.)
In memory of Joe Kittinger
Flew West, December 9, 2022
"We had Joe as our guest speaker at our Safety Day. He was terrific. Everyone really enjoyed it. The tip-off was the number of folks that stuck around afterward to shake his hand. Joe was the best we have seen. I couldn't recommend him highly enough."
Sandy Sanderson VTARNG.
"It turned out to be a great evening. Joe was a very entertaining speaker. After his address I concluded that he is the craziest man I have ever met in my life. Everyone enjoyed his presentation and plenty of people stayed afterward to meet him, shake his hand, take pictures, and get an autograph. He shares quite a story."
Jeff Ramsden, So. Florida Business Aviation Association.
Joe Kittinger served three combat tours in Vietnam in 1963-64 flying B-26s, in 1966-67 flying A-26 and 1972-72 flying F-4s. He was shot down near Hanoi in 1973 and held as a prisoner of war for over a year. As Squadron Commander of the famous 555 (Triple Nickel) TFS-F-4s, this gregarious pilot with bright red hair was well-liked and respected by the pilots in his command. Joe has been awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Harmon Trophy and a host of other military and civilian awards. After 483 combat missions and 28 years in the United States Air Force, Joe became Vice President of Flight Operations for Rosie O’Grady Flying circus. For the next 14 years, his duties included banner towing, skywriting, and operating the Rosie O’Grady helium balloon and hot air balloon. He is currently an aviation and aerospace consultant and barnstorms in a 1929 New Standard open cockpit bi-plane. He was enshrined into the National Aviation Hall of Fame as well as named an Elder Statesman of Aviation by the NAA. Joe Kittinger is a genuine American hero.
A few highlights from his colorful career include:
World’s record parachute jump, 102,800 feet – August 16, 1960
First man to exceed sound barrier in free-fall and longest free-fall – August 16, 1960
First Atlantic Ocean crossing solo balloon flight – September 14-18, 1984
Five stratospheric balloon flights
Over 16,000 hours of flight time in 68 different types of aircraft
Four time winner of Gordon Bennett Trophy (Gas Balloon Race)
Joe Kittinger—Expanded Bio
After attending the University of Florida, Joe joined the US Force in 1949. Upon graduation he was assigned to a Fighter Squadron in Germany flying the P-47, the F-84 and the F-86 all in a 3 year period. His next assignment was to the Fighter Test Section at Holloman AFB, NM. While there he became involved with several projects in preparation for the coming Space Age. Led by Dr John Paul Stapp, Kittinger did the first human research of weightlessness in a T-33 jet trainer, followed by the F-94, F-89, F-100 and F-104.
In June 1957, Joe made the first flight of the Project Man High- flying a stratospheric balloon solo to 97,000 ft. He was then assigned to the AeroMed Lab in Dayton Ohio where he made 3 research stratospheric parachute jumps from 67,000, 67,500 feet and 102, 800 feet-a record that stood for 52 years. For his jump from 102,800 feet, Joe was presented the Harmon Trophy by President Eisenhower. A photo of Joe jumping was on the front page of Life Magazine.
Following another stratospheric balloon flight to 86,000 feet, with Bill White, an astronomer, Kittinger was assigned to the Air Commandos where he flew combat in Vietnam in 1963-64 in B-26’s, followed by a combat tour in 1966-67 in A-26’s, followed by a combat tour in 1971 to 1972 where he was the Squadron Commander of the famous Triple Nickel Squadron flying the Phantom F-4 aircraft.
In March 1972, Joe shot down a Mig 21 and in May 1972 he was shot down by a Mig 21 and ended up as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton until released in March 1973. He had a total of 1,000 hours of combat with 483.5 combat missions.
Upon retiring from the USAF in 1978, Joe stayed connected to aviation—barnstorming in a 1929 New Standard aircraft, skywriting, banner towing and flying gas and hot air balloons around the world. Joe won the prestigious Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race four times.
In 1981, Joe made a flight in a Cessna 180 from Orlando Florida to Salzburg Rhodesia, for a total flight time of 96 hours.
In 1984, he made the first solo gas balloon flight across the Atlantic Ocean; launching from Caribou Maine and landing some 86 hours later in Northern Italy, setting several World’s records.
Joe was the Capsule Communicator in Oct 2012 on Project Stratos where Felix Baumgartner jumped from a stratospheric balloon from 128,000 feet, excelling Kittinger’s record set in 1960. It took 52 years before someone broke Joe's record, and Joe helped in the effort.
Joe is a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, A member of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, The Parachutist Hall of Fame, The Balloon Hall of Fame, the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame and a Medalist in The Explorers Club.
In 2008, Joe was awarded the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Lifetime Achievement Award for his aeronautical achievements and contribution to aviation.
In memory of Gerald Coffee
Flew West, November 13, 2021
In the early morning hours of Saturday, November 13, 2021 Captain Gerald L. “Jerry” Coffee USN (Ret.) received final PCS orders from his Almighty God-in-Chief. Surrounded by loved ones he left for Heaven with abundant hugs and kisses at his condo in Alexandria, VA where he and Susan, his partner and wife of 27 years, lived part-time.
Gerald Coffee is an inspiring example of the power of the human spirit to survive and triumph over the most adverse circumstances. As a navy pilot flying reconnaissance missions over North Vietnam he was shot down over the Gulf of Tonkin on February 3, 1966. Parachuting to safety, he spent over seven years in the infamous Hanoi prison called Hoa Lo -- the fiery forge. Jerry says, "When you’re by yourself and can go deeply within yourself, you come to really understand just how much people need a spiritual dimension to their lives. There’s no way that ideology or materialism or indoctrination can snuff out that little spark that tells us there’s more to life than human minds can begin to understand." Jerry draws not only from the insights derived from that incredible experience but also from the perspective of his unique experience since then. His military decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Two Bronze Stars, Air Medal, two Purple Hearts and the Vietnam Service Medal with 13 stars. He has a Masters Degree in Political Science. His book, Beyond Survival, was featured in the condensed version in Reader’s Digest, Guideposts Magazine, and in audiocassette by Nightingale-Conant.
In a national survey of corporate an association meeting planners, he was selected as one of America’s top ten speakers. His inspirational and motivational presentations cover topics of change, overcoming adversity, teamwork, leadership and communication. Beyond Survival and A Time for Heroes are reaffirmations of the invincibility of the human spirit.