RFT 091: Thunderbird Lead/Executive Director AOPA Air Safety Institute Richard McSpadden

June 5, 2017

Richard McSpadden was first introduced to flying when his mother presented his father with an introductory flight lesson. His father became a pilot and that started a generational love of aviation that passed to Richard and now to his children. His father purchased a Navion, and Richard earned his pilot ratings in the plane.

Richard joined the Air Force after college, and found that the Navion time really gave him an edge in Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). His performance in UPT was instrumental in his getting the only F-15 assignment available to his graduating class. After attending F-15 training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, he was assigned to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. He followed that assignment with an F-15A assignment at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.

When it was time for a staff assignment, Richard became the Air Attache in the Republic of the Philippines, and flew the C-12 King Air aircraft as part of his duties.

Seeing an Air Force announcement that the Thunderbirds were recruiting demonstration pilots, Richard applied, completing an extensive flying history and personal resume. He was selected for an evaluation flight, and took it in an F-16, which he had never flown before, and became the new Commander for the Thunderbirds.

After his two-year tour with the Thunderbirds, Richard retired from the Air Force and pursued a career at Hewlett Packard. In 2017, Richard became the Executive Director of the AOPA Air Safety Institute.
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