So...Who am I?
Bottom line first!
1962- Born December 12th, in Alpine, TX
1981- Graduated High School- Marine Military Academy, Harlingen, TX
1982- Attended US Naval Academy Preparatory School, Newport, Rhode Island
1982-1985 Attended US Naval Academy- Didn't graduate
1986-1992 US Marine Corps, 3rd Recon Bn, 1st Force RECON Co.
1992-2006 US Army Aviator, Fixed Wing Instructor pilot and Rotary wing pilot
2006- Retired from US Army
2006--2011 Owned a Coffee shop and Sign Business
2008- Present Pilot for Avenge Inc. flying King Air 300/350 and Caravan
I’m Levi. I’m a pilot. I love to fly; it’s what I do and it’s a big part of who I am, but of course, not all that I am. Now I know there are many pilots out there who are bigger than I, both in status and stature, but that doesn’t change the fact, that I AM A PILOT.
Being a pilot is COOL! Not because it makes me better than anyone else who isn’t a pilot, but because it gives me a perspective from which to appreciate that which few non pilots can appreciate. As John Gillespie McGee so aptly wrote in his poem High Flight: We pilots long to “slip the surly bonds of earth”, and “dance the skies on laughter silvered wings”. Those who haven’t actually experienced the sensation of being at the controls of an aircraft just can’t understand. What’s less understandable is how, even when we can’t be flying, we never seem to tire of talking about it. Sergei Sikorski understood. He has been quoted as saying that “Talking about airplanes is a very pleasant mental disease”. Well, at least it is pleasant!
My father was a pilot, and I never doubted that I too would become one. We lived on a ranch and had a grass strip in the pasture next to the house. Yes, sharing a runway with cows sometimes left interesting evidence on the bottoms of the wings. (Think driving through a mud puddle, only it wasn’t mud.) Anyway, I don’t remember my first airplane ride, but I do remember many flights with my Daddy. As a young boy I also remember lying next to my grandmother explaining how I was going to become a Jet pilot and put my “mark across the sky”. Delightfully, in the mind of a child, imagination is not limited by the realities of life’s limitations and distractions. Those were the days!
There have been obstacles. When I was only 14, my father’s best friend found me in town with a friend. My friend and I were washing our bicycles in the mechanic’s bay of his dad’s filling station (Texaco I believe). As soon as Mr. Menzies drove up, I could tell he had come with a purpose. He offered me a ride, by saying, Boy, put your bike in the pick-up, I’m taking you to your grandmother’s. That was classic Jim. However, he was not himself, and the ride was uncomfortably quiet. I knew that I must have been in big trouble since my grandmother had obviously sent him out to fetch me. Then, just before we got to the house he stopped on the side of the street. He looked directly at me, and after a pause that seemed like an eternity, he said “Your Daddy’s just been killed in a plane crash”.
Needless to say, that instant changed the course of my life significantly.
Although my journey to professional pilot was not as direct as I had initially hoped, I did make it. I also gained a lifetime of experiences along the way. As unbelievable as it may seem, I didn’t get my pilot’s license until I was 30 years old and it was the US Army that first gave me the keys to an aircraft: a UH-1 Huey Helicopter.
Prior to my Army Flight School graduation, I graduated from high school at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, TX. I subsequently attended, but did not graduate from, the US Naval Academy, served as an airborne (parachutist) and SCUBA qualified RECON Marine, attended the US Army Special Forces Course (18C), had deployed aboard a ship to Desert Storm, and was married to the beautiful Juli Annette Lovelace.
By the way, I’m proud to say that Juli and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary!
As an Army Aviator I flew the UH-1 Huey, the C-12 & RC-12 (variants of the King Air), and the UC-35A (Cessna Citation V Ultra). Along the way I re-acquired my Daddy’s airplane, a 1949 Piper PA-16 Clipper. Since Retiring from the Army, I have acquired a Kitfox IV and, thanks to the generosity of my brother Jamie, a PA-24 Comanche 250. I have also sought every opportunity to fly anything with wings. Although I don’t have a tremendous number of types in my logbook, I have flown or been aboard quite a few different aircraft. (I’m not very diligent when it comes to the logbook, but I have logged close to 9000 hrs in various types),
I vividly remember the first time I saw the shadow of my contrail along the ground. I fought valiantly against the temptation to turn the airplane around just so I could get a good look at it. Ok…so I did turn a little, just to get a glimpse… I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about how proud both my father and my grandmother would have been to know that I had actually become a jet pilot and was marking up the sky! Neither of them lived to see my marks, but my mother and my maternal grandmother did: and they were proud!
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
From the poem High Flight by John Gillespie McGee Jr.
Now that I have retired from the military (I still have a flying job) and am approaching the half century mark, I have set a new goal; to fly 50 different airplanes on my 50th birthday, December 12th 2012. I don’t know if it’s a record, but it will be a monumental accomplishment. Making this a reality will take considerable planning and cooperation and it will require the donation of time, effort and money from many. Because, frankly, I absolutely do not have the resources to support this endeavor, I’m looking for potential sponsors. For now, it’s only a dream, a by product of my “very pleasant mental disease”. However, I’m holding on to the hope that it will become a reality. I’ve still got a few months to prepare.
Although this is a personal goal of sorts, I am doing this as a way to share my blessings.Not only do I hope to introduce young people to the possibility of aviation as a career, I want to make all people more aware of aviation both, as a mode of travel, and a viable hobby. I want to generate enthusiasm for all flight: Experimental, Light Sport, General and corporate. Ideally, my day of flying will include, a small corporate Jet (Citation), Twin Turbo-prop (King Air), Single turbo-prop (Caravan), Piston twin, Turbine Helicopter, piston helicopter, Auto Gyro, Bi-Plane (Stearman), War Bird (Nanchang), ultra-light, and various Light Sport, experimental, and general aviation aircraft from Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Aviat, Etc. Each type presents many possibilities for promotion. Of course I will have a website and facebook page, and possible a monthly update in AOPA, EAA, etc.
Through your generous donations we will be able to donate at least $50,000 to a charity. If there is any capacity in which you or someone you know, would like to contribute, even if it’s only a word of encouragement, I will graciously accept.