This episode features Patty Wagstaff, champion aerobatic pilot for three decades. Patty hails from an …
Brian Settles embarked on his aviation career by accident, registering late (at the behest of his mother, Bernice) for Ball State University after his basketball scholarship to the University of Colorado fell through at the last minute. Ironically, he was talked into signing up for the drill team which meant enrolling in the Air Force ROTC program.
While at Ball State, Captain Settles majored in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish and English and was enticed to enrolling in the ROTC Flight Instruction program. Proving he could walk and chew gum at the same time, upon graduation and commissioning in August 1966, he entered into Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laredo Air Force Base, Texas.
Being a sports jock at heart, Captain Settles was captivated by the machismo of being a fighter pilot and chose the only fighter jet option available to him and most of his pilot training classmates, an assignment to fly as co-pilot in the F-4 Phantom jet fighter-bomber, a move which got him shipped off to Vietnam for a one year combat tour at Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam in August 1968.
Captain Settles survived one hundred ninety-nine combat missions flying the F-4 in Vietnam, completing his Air Force obligation as a KC- 135 refueling tanker pilot at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California and concurrently earning his Master’s degree in International Relations at the University of Southern California. Captain Settles reluctantly turned down a highly coveted selection to the U.S. Air Force Academy Political Science faculty to accept employment in the fall of 1972 as an airline pilot with now defunct Eastern Airlines.
The Arab Oil Embargo of the early seventies temporarily cost Captain Settles his lofty pilot job at Eastern. With a wife and a three year old son, he served for two years in a counseling position with Rutgers University College where he was promoted to Supervisor of Counseling and appointed Assistant Dean until his recall to Eastern in August of 1976.
Thirteen years later, struggling as a single parent Dad with two sons, the would-be airline pilot was once again forced from his glamorous airline pilot career in March of 1989 when a union strike and subsequent bankruptcy shut down Eastern Air Lines permanently. Perhaps as a lark, but more so intent on keeping the For Sale sign out of the yard of his Atlanta home, with his older son a freshman at Florida A & M University and a thirteen year old at home, he endured a two year cab driving adventure on the streets of metro Atlanta until fall of 1992 when he was hired by Private Jet Expeditions, an Atlanta charter jet airline. He advanced to Captain on the McDonald Douglas 82 passenger jet in six months. Two years later, career storm clouds returned and Captain Settles suffered his second airline bankruptcy collapse. Once again, seeking solvency in his taxi-cab, he drove part time until he secured re-employment in 1995 with Indianapolis based ATA Airlines.
Brian has authored his memoir in two books, No Reason for Dying and the abridged version, Smoke For Breakfast. The books are available on Amazon and autographed copies are available at the author’s website.
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