William S. Vaughn
I'm an Ex-Texan and naturalized Washington State resident since 1978. I was reportedly born with crayon in hand drawing pictures of airplanes. By my early teens, I'd flown several hundred hours in a variety of aircraft, including DC-7s, Electras, C-124s and B-47s, all in my dad's living room easy chair that I used as a virtual Level D simulator. I moved on to the real thing, a Champion Tri-Traveler 7FC, when I was 14 and tall enough to reach the rudder pedals. My instructors at Dallas Highland Park Airport were the legendary Bert Corry and Al Barnes.
I flew everything that I could my hands on, including Southland Corp's North American Sabreliner and DC-3 thanks to a schoolmate whose dad, Nick Nixon, was their chief pilot. By hanging out at Love Field's Southwest Airmotive I bagged jumpseats on corporate big iron, including a Martin 404 and Lockheed L-1329 Jetstar. This was all in a vain quest to get flight experience so I could get hired by the airlines after UAL ran ads in FLYING Magazine in the early 1960s begging private pilots to apply for paid training for additional ratings to qualify as a DC-8 flight-engineer/pilot. My biggest problem was that at the time I was still in high school.
By the time I finally graduated and got a few years of college under my belt, I'd earned the usual litany of commercial/multi/instrument/CFI ratings. Ever desperate for flight experience, I signed on as a Mooney Aircraft Company instructor. There, my most vivid memory was checking out an ex-Luftwaffe F-104 fighter jock and learning to my vast relief that an M20C could survive the G-excursions of a High Yo-Yo air combat maneuver. Eventually, I logged several hundred hours in Beech 18s on night-time Postal Service "Star Route" Airmail runs across Texas. I stayed awake to the raspy vocalizations of Wolfman Jack via the 50,000 watt XERB signal from Mexico over the ANT mode of the ADF. Surely, I thought, my ticket could finally be punched for an airline cockpit.
Wasn't to be. At that precise moment, tidal waves of mid-twenties, jut-jawed F-4 and F-8 pilots with 100 missions over the North started flooding into airline interview cattle calls. It got so bad that anyone showing up in civvies was automatically considered dog meat, and for good reason. Finally, a family acquaintance who was Delta’s Dallas base chief pilot gave me a fatherly suggestion: "Son, go off and fly fast jets in the military, and then come back to see me."
That was it. I went in, aced my aviation flight aptitude test (at this point, I sure better have!) and off I went to OCS at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Then one day, I passed out during PT in the summer heat and was discharged for medical reasons. My airline career went up in a mushroom cloud. So, hoping one day that I’d rebound from this unmitigated disaster to write an aviation historical novel, I finished up my B.A. in English Literature with a minor in History at the University of Texas at Austin.
I went on to earn a good living in the aerospace insurance and risk management industry. There I got to fly worldwide in my employer's jump seats on his B-727 and BAC-1-11 fleet and work in a lot of interesting places, like London, Paris, Beirut and Sana'a. I also honed my writing skills by writing dozens of formal prospectuses detailing operational and safety information for airlines and air carrier insurance underwriting syndicates, legal counsel, lenders and trustees. Along the way, I was fortunate to get to know some of the giants in the regional airline business like Ransome Airlines/Pan Am Express' Dawson Ransome, Allegheny/Piedmont Airlines' Dick Henson, American Eagle's Jay Seaborn, Skywest's Jerry Atken, Republic Express/Northwest Airlink's John Molis and Mike Brady and Reeve Aleutian Airways' Dick Reeve.
I recently retired from my risk management career in Seattle and my full-time/part-time instructor pilot job at Boeing Field. This finally allowed me to reclaim enough bandwidth to finish Silverplate after over two decades in the making. My spouse, the Lovely Laura, and I reside on the North Olympic Peninsula in Washington State across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from British Columbia.
Pacific Air War Historical Fiction