Aviation Biography of Thomas H. Sullivan, President Chapter 1167, Grand Strand, SC
I was born on November 1, 1930, raised and graduated from high school at Salem, Massachusetts. I entered the U.S. Air Force in October 1948, being trained in the metrological and intelligence career fields. I remained on active duty until retirement on September 30, 1968.
My interest in aviation stems from the days when my first cousin was a pilot/captain for Pan American Airways on the Sikorsky flying boats during the late 1930/40 era, utilizing the South American and Pacific routes. He was a "Hero" image to me and I admired him greatly.
After joining the Air Force, I wanted to become an aviator, but was not eligible at that time for Aviation Cadet Training. While stationed Utah, I enrolled in a civilian flight school at Salt Lake City. I was 'soloed' in June 1951, using both an Ercoupe 415 and a Piper PA-12 on the same day. The variety of aircraft enabled nose wheel and tail wheel exposure, as well as spin and cross control techniques. Through the 1950's I logged flight time in most of the light aircraft of the time. It was while I was stationed at Lowry AFB, Colorado as a Senior Weather Observer in the year 1953/54 that I was fortunate to have as my Detachment Commander who also a Rated Air Force Pilot. He was aware of interest in becoming a pilot and introduced me to the B-25 and C-45/AT11 airplanes. He was required to log monthly flying time for proficiency reasons and in doing so, he gave me training in the operation and performance of the aircraft. I was able to log multi-engine time and was signed off in my log books, as he was an instructor pilot. Later I was able to log time in a civilian DC-3 as co-pilot.
During the period of 1959-64 while stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB, Tucson, Arizona (also home of the U.S. Government Aircraft Storage and Disposition) I purchased a 1947 Stinson 108-1 in October 1960 and maintained and flew it until trading it for a 1943 Cessna UC-78/T-50 (Bamboo Bomber) twin, August 1963. I enjoyed its challenges until I was posted to Saigon, South Vietnam in October of 1964, which caused me to find a new owner for my "toy."
From October 1964 to September 1968 I was assigned to a project whereby I was in a "liaison" relationship with Air America, Inc. That was a contract airline to the U. S. Government activities in South East Asia. I functioned in this capacity in Saigon, Udorn RTAFB Thailand and at Vientienne, Laos until my retirement from the Air Force September 30, 1968 at Don Muang Royal Thai Airbase, Bangkok, Thailand. After my retirement from the USAF I was employed by Air America on a full-time bases, as an Operations Specialist, Assistant Station Manager at the outlying/remote air facilities used by the company in the "Plains des Jars" area in northern Laos, as well as at our sites in the lower panhandle area of Laos. In 1973 1 was promoted to position of Manager of Flight Operations, Laos Division Air America. I held this position until July, 1974 when Air America ceased its operations in Laos. I was furloughed and returned to Tucson,
AZ after first stopping off at Folsums Flying Service at Greenville, ME to obtain a seaplane rating in lieu of a BFR. Arriving back at Tucson in Octobedr of 1974 I began the process of restoring a 1938 Beechcraft D-17S (Staggerwing) s/n 254, N19482. This was truly a labor of love. I had found the plane sitting forelornly in the desert, during a leave at home from Asia in 1971. I brought it to a friend's facility to store while I was in Lao. I began the work in 1974 and on a payment-in-kind basis, I was employed by Deserot Air Parts of Tucson in a position whereby I assisted in the process of making surplus/auction aircraft from the government facility. I acted a Ferry Pilot on the DC-3/C-47, DC-4/C-54. DC-6/C-118, CV-240/T-29, DHC-4/C-7A, DHC-2/L-20, etc. I was also involved in the process of airframe and power plant repairs and installations, making the aircraft ready for ferry to customer facilities.
During spring of 1978 I was offered a contract by a firm in Miami, FL to take a DC-6 to Lagos, Nigeria and stay on as a pilot. The plane was to be used by the Nigerian Central Bank as a "flying Brinks truck" carrying Nigerian currency throughout Nigeria, to the major banking facilities. It was with a non-Nigerian crew. We also did additional missions through West Africa and Mediterranean areas for the Nigerian Army and others. I remained there until early 1979 when the contract was given to a Nigerian, firm.
I returned to the States; jobs were scarce at that time due to the heavy influx/availability of "furloughed" airline pilots. I took a turn at ferrying new Piper Aircraft from the factory at Lockhaven, PA. This did not produce a steady cash flow in my direction, so I responded to an advertisement for Flight Instructors at the Marine Corps Air Station, New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina, a Civil Service position (GS-11). I interviewed and was selected because of my heavy aircraft experience and instrument times. The position was for a Helicopter Flight Instructor – operational using Flight Trainers (simulators). I was sent to Tustin Air Base in CA for a pilot familiarization course conducted by Sikorsky Aircraft on the CH-53E Super Stallion (73.5K MGTOW) and instructed in the transition, instrument training, external loads, shipboard operations and in-flight aerial refueling. I was also made current in the Ch-46E and CH-53 helicopters. I was the Senior Flight Instructor until my retirement from Civil Service in January of 1993. While in the instruction program I logged 4669+/hours of time, and combined with my civilian experiences, my total logged time is 78894+/-.