Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career
Ready For Takeoff - Turn Your Aviation Passion Into A Career
Captain George Nolly
The Ready For Takeoff podcast will help you transform your aviation passion into an aviation career. Every week we bring you instruction and inspiring interviews with top aviators in their field who reveal their flight path to an exciting career in the skies.
RFT 606: 787 Pilot/NIFA Mentor Andrew Ross
Andrew Ross is a pilot at a major airline flying the Boeing 787 domestically and internationally.  Andrew has served as a union representative, committee chairman, and is a member of the National Education Steering Committee for the ALPA.  He has also served as an airline check airman and is a Gold-Seal Flight Instructor.  Andrew is also a member of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) Board of Directors, furthering collegiate aviation education through competition all over the US.  Andrew holds his masters degree in organizational leadership with a focus in non-profit management and executive coaching and counseling from Lewis University.  He currently runs his own coaching and consulting firm.  He is also a published author.
Dec 3, 2023
56 min
RFT 605: Triple MiG-Killer Rico Rodriguez
Cesar "Rico" Rodriguez's first operational assignment was flying the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II at Suwon Air Base, South Korea; in 1985 he was selected to attend the Instructor Pilot Course at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas then spent the following three years as an AT-38 Instructor Pilot at Holloman AFB, New Mexico; in 1988 he transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle and was assigned to the 33d Tactical Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida. Rodriguez flew missions in support of the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and following service in Operation Desert Storm served on the staff of 9th Air Force at Shaw AFB, South Carolina then attended Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. Beginning in 1995 he was Chief of Force Requirements and Executive Officer to the Commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany then returned to operational flying as a pilot and Chief of Safety with the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, UK; he next served as Assistant Chief of Safety at Air Combat Command Headquarters at Langley AFB, Virginia and then attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. In 2002 he was assigned as Deputy Commander of the 366th Operations Group at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho and also deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom serving as Operations Group Commander for the 332d Air Expeditionary Wing, the largest flying unit in Central Command. His final assignment was as Commander of the 355th Mission Support Group at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; he retired in November, 2006. His numerous awards include the Legion of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Air Medal with 11 oak leaf clusters.
Oct 30, 2023
1 hr 1 min
RFT 604: Airliner Cargo Fire Systems
On the afternoon of May 11, 1996, Valet Flight 592 pushed back from gate G2 in Miami after a delay of 1 hour and 4 minutes due to mechanical problems.There were 110 people on board: 105 passengers, mainly from Florida and Georgia, and a crew of two pilots and three flight attendants. At 2:04 PM EDT, the DC-9 took off from runway 9L (now runway 8R) and began a normal climb. At 2:10 p.m the passengers started to smell smoke. At the same time, the pilots heard a loud bang in their headsets and noticed the plane was losing electrical power. The sag in electrical power and the bang were eventually determined to be the result of a tire in the cargo hold exploding. Seconds later, a flight attendant entered the cockpit and informed the flight crew of a fire in the passenger cabin. Passengers' shouts of "fire, fire, fire" were recorded on the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) when the cockpit door was opened. Though ValuJet's flight attendant training manual stated that the cockpit door should not be opened when smoke or other harmful gases might be present in the cabin, the intercom was not functional and informing the pilots of what was happening was difficult. The flight data recorder (FDR) indicated a progressive failure of the DC-9's electrical and flight control systems due to the spreading fire. Kubeck and Hazen immediately asked air traffic control for a return to Miami due to the increasing smoke in the cockpit and cabin, and were given instructions for a return to the airport. One minute later, Hazen requested the nearest available airport. Kubeck began to turn the plane left in preparation for the return to Miami. Flight 592 disappeared from radar at 2:13:42 PM, the exact time that it crashed. Eyewitnesses nearby watched as the plane banked sharply, rolled onto its side and nosedived into the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area in the Everglades, a few miles west of Miami, at a speed in excess of 507 miles per hour (441 kn; 816 km/h). Kubeck lost control of the plane less than 10 seconds before impact. Examination of debris suggested that the fire had burned through the floorboards in the cabin, resulting in structural failure and damage to cables underneath the instrument panels. The NTSB report on the accident stated, "the Safety Board cannot rule out the possibility that the flightcrew was incapacitated by smoke or heat in the cockpit during the last 7 seconds of the flight."   At the end of a fifteen-month investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that the fire that downed Flight 592 developed in a cargo compartment below the passenger cabin. The cargo compartment was a Class D design, in which fire suppression is accomplished by sealing off the hold from outside air. Any fire in such an airtight compartment would quickly exhaust all available oxidizers and then burn itself out. As the fire suppression can be accomplished without any intervention by the crew, such holds are not equipped with smoke detectors. However, the NTSB quickly determined that just before takeoff, 144 expired chemical oxygen generators, each slightly larger than the size of a tennis ball can, had been placed in the cargo compartment in five boxes marked COMAT (company material) by ValuJet's maintenance contractor, SabreTech, in violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations forbidding the transport of hazardous materials in passenger aircraft cargo holds.[a] Failure to cover the generators' firing pins with the prescribed plastic caps made an accidental activation much more likely. The investigation revealed that rather than covering them, the cords attached to the firing pins were simply cut or duct-taped around the cans, and Scotch tape was also used to stick the ends down. SabreTech employees indicated on the cargo manifest that the "oxy canisters", which were loosely packed in the boxes that were each sealed with tape and bubble wrap, were "empty". ValuJet workers then loaded the boxes in the cargo hold in the mistaken belief that the devices that they contained were just empty canisters, thus being certified as supposedly "safe" to transport on a passenger aircraft, when in fact they were neither simple oxygen canisters, nor empty. Chemical oxygen generators, when activated, produce oxygen for passengers if the plane suffers a decompression. However, they also produce a great quantity of heat due to the exothermic nature of the chemical reaction involved. Therefore, not only could the heat and generated oxygen start a fire, but the oxygen could also keep the fire burning. The fire was worsened by the presence of two main aircraft tires (one of them mounted on a main wheel) and a nose tire and wheel that were also included in the list of materials shipped as COMAT. Investigators determined that one of the oxygen generators was likely triggered when the plane experienced a slight jolt while taxiing. As the aircraft taxied and took off, the generator began accumulating heat, soon setting fire to its surroundings. Laboratory testing showed that canisters of the same type could heat nearby materials up to 500 °F (260 °C). The oxygen from the generators fed the resulting fire in the cargo hold without any need for outside air, defeating the cargo hold's airtight design. A pop and jolt heard on the cockpit voice recording and correlated with a brief and dramatic spike in the altimeter reading in the flight data recording were attributed to the sudden cabin pressure change caused by one of the wheels in the cargo hold exploding due to the heat. Investigators also determined that in this process, the fire began to destroy control cables that ran to the back of the aircraft, which explained why the pilots began losing control before the plane crashed; the NTSB concluded that the aircraft was under positive control by the pilots until the time of the sharp right turn and dive immediately prior to impact. Smoke detectors in the cargo holds can alert the flight crew of a fire long before the problem becomes apparent in the cabin, and a fire suppression system buys valuable time to land the plane safely. In February 1998, the FAA issued revised standards requiring all Class D cargo holds to be converted by early 2001 to Class C or E; these types of holds have additional fire detection and suppression equipment.
Sep 15, 2023
9 min
RFT 603: Stunt Pilot Scott Kartvedt
Watching Top Gun Scott Kartvedt watched Top Gun in 1986 just like many other young men but then went on to be a Navy pilot, something many of us just dreamed of. He applied to and was selected to the elite Blue Angels air demonstration team where he served as the number seven, six, and number five solo pilot before returning to the fleet. There, he served during five combat deployments flying 91 combat missions and accumulating over 6,300 flight hours, 658 carrier arrested landings on eleven aircraft carriers.   Led to a Navy Career Throughout his career, he faced near-death experiences, lost men and women he served with, and led squadrons through battle, all while developing a culture of excellence everywhere he went.   He went on to command VFA-83, an award-winning FA/18 Squadron, and served as the Navy’s first commanding officer of the only F-35C Stealth Strike Fighter Squadron in the US before retiring from the Navy and returning to civilian life.   Going Full Throttle into Civilian Life After that, he began his second career as a professional pilot. He became an inspirational speaker and instructor and served and still serves on the Board of Directors for the Blue Angels Foundation. Scott also joined the Patriot Jet Team, the only civilian jet demonstration team in North America, as their number 5 pilot.   And Onto the Big Screen Through that position, he had the opportunity to train some of the actors and fly as a stunt pilot in the new Top Gun Maverick movie, bringing his journey full circle.   You'll laugh, you'll learn, you'll cry, and you'll soar at full throttle through Scott's story of a life lived at high-G, and you won't want to stop reading until you get to the final page.
Jul 29, 2023
26 min
RFT 602: Home Builder Dan Verdoorn
Dan Verdoorn started his flying as a young child, riding his bicycle to the local airport and watching airplanes take off and land from outside the fence. Finally, a pilot in a J-3 Cub asked him if he wanted to go for a flight, and that was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with aviation. Dan worked his way up in the construction business and is now the owner of Celebrity Custom Homes in Lone Tree, Colorado. But building homes isn't his only handiwork: he has built several aircraft, and has owned even more! Dan definitely has earned the title of Home Builder!
Jun 8, 2023
29 min
RFT 601: Marine/Airline Pilot Tom Speer
During the Vietnam War, with two years of college, Tom Speer was facing the draft. Out of curiosity, he visited a Marine recruiter and saw a photo of an F-4 and was hooked. The recruiter sent him to take numerous tests - which he aced - and he signed up to be a Marine Aviation Cadet. He had a bit of incentive when he received his draft notice!   Tom attended Navy/Marine flight training and was selected to fly jets. He was dogged in his pursuit of flying the F-4, turning down other jet offers until he prevailed. After F-4 training he was sent to Chu Lai, South Vietnam for his combat tour.   Returning from Vietnam he finished college and flew F-8s in the Marine Reserves, retiring as a Colonel. At the same time, he flew for Eastern, and honored the strike.   Following Eastern, he was hired by United Airlines, and was selected to manage the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) project, flying 747s at high altitude for NASA scientific research.   Tom now flight instructs on Beech 1900 aircraft.
May 21, 2023
1 hr 31 min
RFT 600 Captured By Love Interview With Lee Ellis
Captured by Love shares the real love stories of 20 Vietnam War POWs. Some had wives who started a movement that changed American foreign policy. Others came home and had to start over, while five single men met the loves of their lives. Despite their unique differences, all these couples have been happily married 40 to 65 years. You’ll be swept up into some extraordinary tales such as: • Carole boldly gave her husband’s POW-MIA bracelet to John Wayne―he wore it for years! • Pan Am stewardess Suzy wore a bracelet for POW Bill Bailey, whom she did not know. But she prayed for him daily, and miraculously met and married him when he came home. • After eight years in prison, one POW said to his wife in his first phone call upon his release, “Hi Jane. It’s Tarzan.” You will laugh and cry when you learn why. Former POW Lee Ellis and love expert Greg Godek take you on a dramatic journey of faithfulness, passion, excitement, resilience, and practical love lessons from these couples.
May 5, 2023
41 min
RFT 597: Divine Intervention - Let's Stop Believing Our Own Press!
Sully Sullenberger: "I'm very glad that the Federal Aviation Administration has ensured the safety of the traveling public by wisely denying the waiver request by Republic Airways to cut in half the pilot experience requirement. U.S. airlines have attained an extraordinarily good safety record, with no fatal crashes in more than 13 and a half years." Sorry, Sully, not true. An Atlas Air B767 flying for Amazon crashed on Feb 23, 2019, killing the three crew members. The first officer, who caused the crash, had 5073 flying hours. He had falsified his flying history and lied about failing seven check rides. The 2009 Colgan Air crash that was the impetus for the 1500 hour rule was caused by a captain with a history of three proficiency check failures at Colgan. In July 2017 Air Canada Flight 759 had two pilots with more than 1500 hours each. They missed crashing into several aircraft on a taxiway, clearing the closest plane by 14 feet. If they had crashed, the death toll would have eclipsed the Teneriffe crash. The crash was averted by a United Airlines pilot telling them they were lined up on a taxiway. In December, B777 UA1722 took off from the Kahului Airport at 14:49 local time, where it was met with stormy conditions. Looking at data provided by, the aircraft reached 2,200 ft approximately a minute after departing. However, it quickly began descending just north of the island's Baldwin Beach Park. At 14:50, the calibrated altitude of the aircraft was just around 775 ft as the aircraft dropped over the waters along the coast of Maui. From CNN Business: Five recent near-collisions on US runways, including one more this week in Boston, have prompted federal safety investigators to open multiple inquiries and a sweeping review. Boston Air traffic controllers stopped JetBlue flight from running into a departing private jet as it was coming in to land on the evening of February 27 night in Boston. The FAA is investigating the incident. The two planes involved in the apparent close call at Boston Logan International Airport came within 565 feet (172 meters) of colliding, according to Flightradar24's preliminary review of its data. According to a preliminary review, the pilot of a Learjet 60 took off without clearance while JetBlue Flight 206 was preparing to land on an intersecting runway," the FAA said in a statement. "JetBlue 206, go around," said the controller in Boston Logan's tower, according to recordings archived by The FAA says its air traffic controller told the crew of the Learjet to "line up and wait" on Runway 9 as the JetBlue Embraer 190 approached the intersecting Runway 4 Right. "The Learjet pilot read back the instructions clearly but began a takeoff roll instead," the FAA said in a statement. "The pilot of the JetBlue aircraft took evasive action and initiated a climb-out as the Learjet crossed the intersection." Burbank Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board said that a crew of a landing Mesa Airlines CRJ900 "executed a pilot-initiated go-around" as a SkyWest Embraer E175 was taking off from the same runway. A go-around is a routine measure to abort a landing on the approach. The NTSB says neither airplane was damaged and nobody on board was hurt. recordings from the time of the incident chronicle confusion over whether the SkyWest flight was off the runway at Bob Hope Burbank Airport in California. It's unclear how close the two planes came to a collision. "Is he off the runway yet?" asked one unidentified voice. "We're going around," responded the crew of the Mesa flight. "The Mesa pilot discontinued the landing and initiated a climb out," said a FAA statement, which is also investigating the incident. "Meanwhile, the SkyWest aircraft continued with its departure, which prompted an automated alert to sound on the flight deck of the Mesa aircraft," the FAA said. The controller instructed the Mesa crew to turn to a course that took it away from the other aircraft." Austin A Southwest passenger jet and a FedEx cargo plane came as close as 100 feet from colliding on February 5 at the main airport in Texas' capital, and it was a pilot -- not air traffic controllers -- who averted disaster, a top federal investigator says. Controllers at Austin's airport had cleared the arriving FedEx Boeing 767 and a departing Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet to use the same runway, and the FedEx crew "realized that they were overflying the Southwest plane," Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told CNN. The FedEx pilot told the Southwest crew to abort taking off, she said. The FedEx plane, meanwhile, climbed as its crew aborted their landing to help avoid a collision, the FAA said. Honolulu On January 23, there was an incident at Daniel K. Inouye International Airport involving a United Airlines 777 jet and a smaller, single-engine cargo plane at the Hawaii airport. The United jet improperly crossed a runway, while the cargo aircraft was landing, the FAA said. At the closest point, the aircraft were separated by 1,170 feet. The cargo aircraft involved in the incident is a smaller Cessna 206 turboprop operated by Kamaka Air, which ferries goods between the Hawaiian islands. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The NTSB announced the investigation the day after Billy Nolen, the acting FAA administrator, directed his agency in a memo to "mine the data to see whether there are other incidents that resemble ones we have seen in recent weeks." New York - JFK On January 13, a close call between an American Airlines and Delta Air Lines flights sparked alarm. The crew of a Delta Boeing 737 aborted its takeoff, ultimately stopping within 1,000 feet of the taxiing AA's Boeing 777, the FAA said. No one was hurt in the incident, which took place around on a Friday evening. Air traffic controllers had "noticed another aircraft crossing the runway in front of the departing jetliner," the FAA said in a statement. "According to a preliminary analysis, Delta Air Lines Flight 1943 stopped its takeoff roll approximately 1,000 feet before reaching the point where American Airlines Flight 106, a Boeing 777, had crossed from an adjacent taxiway." According to Delta, its flight -- a 737-900 bound for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic -- had 145 customers and six crew members on board. Audio recordings detail swift action by an air traffic controller kept the airplanes from colliding as they drew closer. "S--t!" exclaimed the controller from the tower of John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday night. "Delta 1943 cancel takeoff clearance!" All of these crashed were averted by - predominantly - devine intervention. Sully's successful outcome was clearly the result of devine intervention that had the Hudson River devoid of the normal plethora of ferries and boats. The aircraft did not suddenly sink even though the Ditching Switch was not used. Here is another opinion about the 1500 hour rule.
Apr 4, 2023
25 min
RFT 288: Cancer Survivor/Airline Pilot David Whitson
From Air Line Pilots Association: In September 2016, Capt. David Whitson (United) was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a condition in which white blood cells that manage the body’s immune system form abnormally. The then B-787 first officer was treated at the Texas Oncology–Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Tex., where he spent an initial 30 days undergoing tests and chemotherapy. “I had a mutation called FLT3 that put me at high risk for not reaching remission and also in a high-incidence category for relapse even if remission was achieved,” he recalled, adding, “My best shot was to have a bone marrow transplant, also called a stem cell transplant. Without it, I had a 5 percent chance of survival.” Whitson was released from the hospital for a brief break. During this period, doctors conducted a bone marrow biopsy and discovered that the pilot’s cancer was in remission, a condition necessary to achieve before a bone marrow transplant could be conducted. Whitson and his doctors quickly found a donor. “It was hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that a complete stranger would be willing to give me bone marrow stem cells and potentially save my life,” he acknowledged. Whitson endured additional rounds of chemotherapy and a full-body radiation scan to ensure his body was ready and on Dec. 21, 2016, received the transplant. Within several days, his new immune system was up and running. Thirteen days after the transplant, Whitson was released from the hospital. He noted that prior to the transfusion of stem cells his blood type was B+, but today it’s O-. In addition, the DNA in his blood is different from that in his body. Whitson encourages everyone to donate blood. “I needed more than a dozen blood and platelet transfusions during my treatments,” he said. The United pilot also urges those interested to join the national bone marrow registry at or “There’s a lack of diversity within the registry, and minorities are greatly needed,” he shared. “Every day is a gift,” Whitson remarked, who credits ALPA’s Aeromedical Office for advising him and helping him jump through the necessary hoops to acquire his special issuance medical certificate and return to the cockpit. He also gave a nod to his medical benefits, noting, “I was on long-term disability for more than two years, and my medical insurance was excellent. Thank you, ALPA!”
Mar 8, 2023
33 min
RFT 596: Medivac Pilot Bud Willis
Named Tennessee's Outstanding Young Man for service to his community, state and country, Bud Willis has been well recognized for his first book, Bluestocking, released in 2009, now in its second printing. A native Tennessean, Willis grew up in Tullahoma, and graduated from Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville. There, Bud served as editor of the campus literary magazine. His professional career extended through 34 years in the securities industry as Partner with J.C. Bradford and Company. As a successful business man, public speaker, and humorist, his spirited Southern writing style engages readers quickly, with pathos, humor, and new knowledge regarding the lives and labor of young, Marine pilots serving in the mid-60's in Vietnam. Bud's memoir Marble Mountain is available on Amazon.
Feb 14, 2023
1 hr 13 min
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