Alaska Airlines

From Air Force buddies to Alaska pilots

When a guest posted that her Alaska Airlines pilots had flown together in the Air Force, we had to look into it. After some digging, we found that, indeed, First Officer Lloyd and Captain David served in the U.S. Air Force in the ’90s and today often coordinate their schedules to fly together.  

It’s a friendship that started while hunkered in a tent eating MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat or prepacked grub) over 25 years ago. They were two different guys from vastly different parts of the country, but united in a passion and dedication to serve their country. 

Lloyd grew up in Maine and got the bug to fly soon after graduating from college as part of Air Force ROTC. After pilot training, he moved onto being an instructor on the T-37 and then flew the C-141 Starlifter and the C-17 Globemaster. He also did an exchange for four years as an instructor pilot on the T-34C for the Navy.  

It was while flying the C-141 at an exercise at McChord Air Force Base (known today as Joint Base Lewis-McChord) in Tacoma, Washington that he met David, a farm kid from Indiana. 

David grew up with his neck craned to the sky watching military jets fly routes over his family’s small farm. He pursued an aeronautical engineering degree and landed a job at Boeing, where he soon decided he’d much rather fly the airplanes than analyze them. So, he applied to the Air Force and, after training, flew the C-141 out of McChord and then the C-12J (a Beech 1900C twin turbo prop) on a tour in South Korea. 

It was at McChord that he ended up seated next to Lloyd as his instructor on a training flight. “We needed to block four hours, so instead of just beating up the pattern at McChord we flew the aircraft up to British Columbia. It was a beautiful flight day, and a memorable one flying over Vancouver Island.” 

The two aviators ended the day and went their separate ways.  

“We didn’t figure we’d see each other again, so we said our goodbyes,” Lloyd said.  

But fate had other plans.  

Three months later, Lloyd and David found themselves once again randomly assigned together for a training exercise.  

“We spent three days living in a tent eating MREs,” Lloyd said. “It was during this time that we found we had a lot in common.” 

They flew together more over the years and stayed in touch, sharing a love for the outdoors, hunting, fishing, motorcycles and cars. David retired in 1999, joined the Air Force Reserve and soon after was hired at Alaska.  

Lloyd stayed in the service as an instructor and did a stint “flying a desk” as he says, in Korea.  But it wasn’t long after he announced that he was planning to hang up his military flight suit that he got a call from his old friend. It went something like, ‘hey let’s get the band back together.’ Lloyd applied at Alaska and joined the airline in 2012. 

Today, the Alaska captain/check airman and first officer often bid their trips together, savoring the time to reconnect and catch up.  

“We enjoy flying together so much that I tell passengers if they have half as much fun as Lloyd and I will be having flying them, that they’re going to have a great time,” David said. 

David likes to rib Lloyd about whether he plans to execute a Navy or an Air Force landing on any particular day, as he taught for both branches of the service. (Ask any Navy or Air Force pilot if there’s a difference and you’ll get an earful.) 

Guests on their flights get a kick out of hearing their story, oftentimes commenting to each other or stopping at the flight deck as they deplane, thanking them for their service.  

Images: © Alaska Airlines

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