In the spirit of Aviation History Month Here is my aviation story by: ARTEX Director of Sales, Jeffery Geraci
With November being Aviation History Month, I had the honor of presenting the history of ELT and ARTEX to my fellow employees. As I researched and prepared the briefing, it prompted reflection on my own personal aviation history. Attaining flight is such an intriguing combination of physics that completely infected my imagination. My journey started as many young boys did, with a glider and then a rubber band powered model. Back in the 60s the Guillows Company provided many youngsters the ability to build and launch their flying dreams. My first powered craft was Piper Cub. In its maiden flight, a shirtless 10 year old found that speed and ground proximity were a disastrous combination for a balsa wood airframe.
First Piper Cub flight, 1970 – Farmington Hills, MI
Having witnessed a flying machine of my own construction take flight, my passion for flight would lead to larger aircraft with gas engines and radio controls. My first radio controlled aircraft was a “Falcon 56” and it was a beautiful yet forgiving aircraft to fly. At 13 years of age I was all in for flight. As the Falcon flew over me, I looked up and said to myself, how do I get in the cockpit? My career path was set and in just 4 more years, I would be an aviator.
Falcon 56 Airframe, 1972 – Farmington Hills, MI
Falcon 56 first flight, 1973 – Farmington Hills, MI
My parents signed the early entry form required for a 17 year old to join the military. The selection process for enlisted aircrew was competitive but due to my exceptional vision and depth perception, my dream was realized. I was selected for the KC-135 Tanker boom operator position. Boom operators maneuver a flying boom to “connect” with a trailing aircraft and perform in-flight refueling. Before an aircrew can attend training for the specific type of aircraft, the selectee must attend survival schools. Water, prisoner of war, ground and Arctic survival schools were required. In addition to learning the skills of survival, the schools provided another means of eliminating the less dedicated. In 1978, during my water survival school students would float in Biscayne Bay, Florida for hours to simulate the ocean bailout. We used flares, dye and strobe lights to signal each other. My first experience with ACR Electronics Inc. was utilizing a very well made bright orange strobe light. Little did realize that ACR and I would cross paths again 35 years later.
August 1979 publication of Airman Magazine picturing water survival training
After completion of the survival schools my first ride in a tanker took place at Castle Air Force base, Merced California in 1979. We flew many missions refueling all USAF aircraft types. I was photographed in Airman Magazine, August of 1979 for a C-130 mission.
August 1979 publication of Airman Magazine, C 130 Mission
My first base posting was Wurtsmith AFB, Oscoda Michigan. Although we rotated aircraft often, number 38038 was a frequent selection for our training. This particular aircraft was a newer KC-135 manufactured in late 1960. Most tankers were manufactured in 1957-59. I was 19 years old the first time I flew on this aircraft. We are both 57 now and I am not sure who will live longer, 38038 or me! I still recall the sound of the J-57s with water injection. The sound in the cockpit was deafening as the pilot pushed the throttles forward. I still recall the feeling of speed as we raced toward the end of the runway. The pilot would call out “S-1” which meant we passed the speed threshold of not being able to stop, we were dedicated to takeoff. I flew in the jump seat often and had the best view of the cockpit being in between both pilots
In 1983, I became an instructor Boom operator. Part of the training was to fly co-pilot for 2 touch and go landings just in case there was a need to fill in. I had acquired 25 hours in a Cessna 172 but the tanker flew like nothing I had experienced. I will never forget the takeoff sequence of pushing up the engines and steering with the rudders after 80 knots. Being seated up front made the speed more intense as we powered past 140 knots. I pulled back, assumed a steady 15 degrees of climb, got the gear and flaps up. Just like the Falcon 56 model used to climb, but I was inside this bird.
USAF 38038 with Jeff Geraci onboard – October 1980
I completed 2 tours in the USAF but did not make it a career. The lure of private sector income and running my own business moved me on. I always looked up when I heard an aircraft overhead. I know how that feels I thought to myself.
My aviation career would be revived in 2000 as I sold my business and took a position with a Michigan company called Advanced Data Research (ADR). Based upon a commercial device, we developed the first version of the electronic flight bag. Our customers were corporate flight departments worldwide. I was back in cockpits helping to determine mounting locations for the computers.
Fast forward to 2013 and good friend, Mike Schmidt calls me and asks what I am doing. Mike and I worked at the flight bag company and recently had taken position at ACR Electronics in Fort Lauderdale Florida. Mike helped me secure a position with ACR in September of 2013.
Speaking of history, the mission at ACR is to make sure pilots and their occupants do not become history. ACR and ARTEX share a long and important lineage of making a difference to those in trouble.
ARTEX History Presentation November 2017, Fort Lauderdale, FL