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Stephan Brown

Stephan Brown

Stephan C. Brown is the President/CEO of the Commemorative Air Force

 SB Blog Seattle2
Good use of aircraft and photo backdrop.

 Visiting Seattle's Finest Attractions

Last week, Adam Smith (CAF Executive Vice President of Strategic Development), Gerald Oliver (CAF General Staff, B-29 Squadron), David Oliver (B-29 Pilot) and I visited Museum of Flight (MOF) and Paul Allen's Flying Heritage Museum in Seattle, WA. The following day, Neils Agather (CAF Chief of Staff) joined us at Future of Flight and the restoration facility for MOF. We packed a lot in, especially with Ralph Bufano who is the President Emeritus of MOF,

 SB Blog Seattle2
Unknown to any of us, there is a model of
the CAF B-29 FIFI at the Museum of Flight.

who led us and spoke to us about the process of designing, programming and fund raising for a major attraction such as this. They have over 500,000 paid visitors each year and really do things right, so it was great to look through the lens of developing our CAF National Airbase. Our goal as we travel around the country is to look at many different attractions, not just aviation, and then borrow, tweak or re-package the best of what we see, to design and construct an aviation attraction like no other. 

We also got to see FIFI back at its parent company, when it was at Boeing Field and I know that their employees were excited to see and tour a piece of their corporate history. The B-29 relocated at a nearby air field, where they were booked up with rides!
 
Many people I run into ask if we have "moved yet." The Headquarters will not actually move until next summer, including some of the employees that plan to move. Personally, I am moving right away - I sold my home in Midland and purchased one in Arlington. I will go back and forth between Dallas and Midland, with much of my time devoted to the CAF National Airbase. But, as is always the case, I will be traveling and visiting units. I am able to do this because of the fine Headquarters Staff in Midland and those scattered at remote locations. I am proud of the Staff we have and their knowledge and skill allows me the flexibility to focus outside the daily operations.
 
On the weekend, I shot down to see my son Austin, who is working at Moffett Field at the NASA facility. He is assigned with Army Test Pilots who handle development of new software and hardware for Army Aviation. He has come to have a big desire to go to flight school and he has focused his studies at Mechanical/Aeronautical Engineering. Of course flying with test pilots is making the fever rise!

I will be back in Midland this week to work with the High Sky Wing.

Steve

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RWLBlog2

RWLBlog3

RWLBlog1

I am writing this from the audience of an air show in Cameron, Mo. where we have a CAF Red, White & Loud concert underway starring our pal and CAF Col Aaron Tippin. Here are a couple of photos. Aren't we lucky to have such a patriotic performer extending our CAF brand to his fans?!  He's a class act who cares about our mission.

Thanks Aaron!

 

 

 

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1964980 10152370196503567 2043379564151518862 nLeah recently informed me that people are actually reading this blog and that now you can sign up to receive an email alert! So, thanks to all of you that are doing so – I will work hard to make this informative, entertaining and somewhat regular; hopefully without too much frequency to avoid it being annoying. I have a love-hate relationship with the monthly article I wrote for Dispatch - Flight Lead. I love when I find a topic that people are impacted by and have gotten feedback that I sometimes hit that desired mark. Usually I am dreading the email from Leah Block reminding me that she is waiting on this column. I will make this blog less formal, but feel free to give me feedback on anything I write. Whether we agree or not – I enjoy the discourse!

I visited the CAF Red Tail Squadron and CAF Minnesota Wing two weekends ago – boy I love their weather in the summer time! It was good meeting with the Red Tail Squadron mechanics, who have done such a fabulous job both restoring and maintaining the aircraft, as it travels the countryside with the CAF Rise Above Traveling Exhibit. We had some good discussions about the plans to have the Red Tail Squadron base out of CAF National Airbase, which is some years away, and how beneficial that will be for the Rise Above theme and the continued national impact that the program will have. I also discussed the next steps with the unit leadership. Although we have not made any decisions, this is our focus. (If you haven’t been thru the trailer and seen the movie, you have to go! It is powerful. And be sure to talk with Terry and Jennette Hollis, who travel on tour with the trailer, they are the best.)

I met the next night with the CAF Minnesota Wing for a nice dinner that they provided (tasty lasagna!) It was a beautiful evening and a good turnout showed up midweek to welcome me. I spoke to them for 45 minutes and gave them a blow-by-blow synopsis of the last 18 months regarding the move, the vote, the search the process and the decision. I realized that it reads like a novel as I went through it and I feel confident from the looks on their faces that it was eye opening and intriguing as I told them about the hard work done by so many to convince people of the long-term wisdom of making a move, through phone calls, emails, articles and one-on-one conversations. All of that effort to encourage 2200+ people to vote….only to get the required 75% by two votes!!! Even I couldn’t believe it, except that I lived it. Some have scoffed, but the votes were received and handled by an independent audit firm (the same firm who handles our financial audits and all recent elections)…after two recounts,  2 votes were the margin of victory! Of course the obvious fact is that an election where 75% of anybody votes for anything is a super-mandate. The Minnesota Wing enjoyed and were enthralled by the story and I think this story will become legendary in 20 years when we look back from the heights I expect CAF to rise too.

  • Preview: Next Blog – Austin Brown, my son, the West Pointer goes to summer training and preps for his Senior Year.
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b2ap3_thumbnail_photo1.JPG

Ever wonder how the best air show act in the business gets that good? Here is Tora practicing on the ground before takeoff. Taken at Lake Conroe,Texas.

 

 

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Spring flying season has arrived and the event that kicks things off is Sun 'n Fun down in Lakeland,Fla. I arrived here yesterday and for the first time in 7 years, we didn't bring Hangar 57 to put on display. We have too many things going on this Spring and too few people going too many ways...so we decided to focus elsewhere this year.


The good news is that we have at least two significant aircraft here (so far) and I stopped by to talk to their crews. The Texas Raiders team is out on tour for the first time in a long time and they have met with strong success. It is fun to see their excitement.

The SB2C is also here and Ed Vesley was busy making things happen when I went by- so I will check in with him today. The airplane looked good, although a little bit lonely on the Warbird ramp. Hopefully more aircraft will arrive today. I ran into Jim Cavanaugh and Doug Jeanes on the as well and they were happily enjoying the sunny weather, displaying their Sky Raider and two T-28s.

 

In the "who's who" walking around was Aaron and Thea Tippin who are camping out on site with their two boys. Aaron became a CFI this past year and solo'd his oldest son  Ted- so the Tippin's continue to be "airplane crazy!"

I didn't get too far on without running into old aviation friends and the topic people were interested in was the search for our National Airbase. I will tell all of you that we are getting closer to a decision. The CAF General Staff is meeting this weekend in Dallas for final discussions and probably make a decision as to which location we will enter into the final negotiations. However, due to the fact that wherever they pick will need to get final approval from their local governmental authorities, we won't be able to publicly reveal anything for as much as 8 weeks. Sorry about that, but there is no way around it. I can tell you that the offers have been very exciting and the future for the CAF continues to look brighter every day.

Last night I went to listen to the leaders of AOPA, EAA, NBAA and HAI discuss the challenges ahead. You can all read their thoughts in their respective publications, but it is good to see their collaboration. To digress a little on this topic- Bob Stenevik and I went to Washington D.C. two weeks ago and met with the FAA. Although we had and have concerns, we had a positive meeting with the leadership that oversees the regulations that deal with warbirds. I am hopeful we will see some positive movement or a status quo at the least; for the immediate future.

Finally last night I met up with John and Martha King of King Schools fame for dinner. They have instructed at least 50% of the active pilots today though one or more of their courses- wow! They are always entertaining as well as educational to talk with and I enjoyed hearing about the state of GA in China, of all places. They said that only a tiny percentage of the 1.3 billion people can afford to fly- by that the is still a lot of people! They are on their way over and it is fascinating to think about flying in Chinese airspace- if not a little scary....

So, that was the happenings yesterday and I will let you know if I see anything else of interest today!

Steve

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It’s been a week now since Wing Staff Conference ended, so I am late on the Blog; but I left town last Monday and spent the last week playing with cows (see photo – that was my view.)

 

 

 

But I had time to reflect last week and I must say that this was the best WSC in the seven years that I have been involved. Besides the fun of our annual Staff Skit (Although I don’t have Facebook, I am sure there are plenty of photos around of that!) where I get to make a fool of myself; and the CAF’s Got Talent (where others join me in foolishness) – there was a ton of good information exchanged. Beside the new Headquarters Staff members that have added a new dimension to the classes, there are many new leaders showing up and learning from the more seasoned leadership. However, this new blood is also bringing fresh ideas to the table!

 



Of course, don’t just take it from me – here is an email that I received from Stan Turner, the Houston Wing Leader regarding WSC:

 

“Steve,

 

I would like to thank you and your staff for putting on a solid program this weekend for WSC. The reminder of "Why We Are Here" was very motivational. Many unit leaders like me get bogged down in the grind of trying to move our groups forward while being constrained by things like day jobs, time and energy. Attending an event where practical knowledge is shared as well as genuine honesty is very appreciated…”

 

Stan Turner

 

Although not everyone got the word, last year I made it mandatory for each unit’s Leader to attend WSC. Why did I make it a requirement? Because we operate aircraft and our member’s lives are in our hands. Additionally, large amounts of the CAF’s revenue are in the field and in the hands of Unit Staff Officers. Therefore, if you are signing up to lead these units and their members, then you need to attend the annual conference where important issues, including Membership, Safety, Ops and Finances are discussed. So, if not for the fun and camaraderie, come because you owe that responsibility to your unit’s members. That is why every unit leader is required to agree to attend WSC, prior to running for election. That may sound heavy handed, but in reality, these are just the High Standards that the CAF is steadily establishing for ourselves. World Class organizations have very high standards. But beyond the Unit Leader, others on the Unit Staff, or just members at large should attend. There is too much info being disseminated for one person to get it all.

 

 

 Something new that came out of WSC was the issuance of one (1) FREE Nomex flight suit to each qualified aircraft crew member. The purpose for this is Safety and to help with the newly created CAF regulation requiring all crew members to wear a Nomex flight suit. This fire retardant suit saves lives, as evidenced in the presentation given by CAF Col Doug Jeanes, who told the story of the CAF’s P-47 which caught on fire. He managed to land it quickly and he walked away….barely! But his helmet and scorched Nomex flight suit told another story….of what could have happened had he not been wearing same. By giving every flight crew member one suit for free, we are stressing the importance of safety and our commitment to our most highly exposed members. This program will cost $100,000 this year and was paid for from last year’s (2013) Operating Surplus. It will continue on beyond 2014 to include all future flight crew members receiving this free Nomex flight suit.

 


While making this commitment, we also selected a Look of Uniformity for the flight suits. There is a standardized and an individualistic component to the patches and desert tan flight suit. But make sure you know what they are, because everyone will need to comply. (Again, Standards!) Please contact Bob Stenevik or Buddy Cooksey for details.

 

 So, please make your plans to come and enjoy the fun, information and history (we induct our CAF Hall of Fame members each year) of Wing Staff Conference. The dates for next year are: Feb 19-22, 2015.

 

 

 

Steve

 

 

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Last night I received the terrible news concerning CAF Col Ray Hofman. As I understand it, yesterday (Feb 18) Ray was at Breckenridge, Texas flying his Sea Fury that just came out of restoration. Soon after taking off on one of the flights, the Sea Fury crashed with the resulting fatality of pilot Ray Hofman.

All of us who have been in this business for very long have been impacted by tragedies such as this…which makes it no easier to handle; perhaps it makes it even harder… I first experienced it as a young lieutenant in Army Flight School when a member of my flight class and his crew were killed during instruction. It shook me up that a guy I had just been talking to at a party, only two days previous, had now simply vanished. I remember the feeling of 30 years ago…and it feels exactly the same today.

I have only known Ray for two years, but as I am sure with many, he made a deep impact. At first, he seemed almost too good to be true – a tall, handsome young guy who had been very successful, all on his own talents and hard work….and he was a nice guy; a VERY nice guy. But, Ray was the Real Deal. He was just that successful and just that nice – and generous.

 A race car lover, who had decided to extend his passion to warbirds; when we first met, I was inquisitive as to why the new focus on warbirds? Ray told me his story about growing up in Canada and his childhood room covered with pictures of the CAF’s airplanes on the walls. And that when he had decided to move to Midland for the oil business, he arrived late in the night, only to wake up and see the CAF letters on the water tower. He told me he was so excited because he never realized that the CAF was located in the town he was relocating too! So now, more than 10 years later, he had the time and resources to pursue this passion.

 

And Ray pursued this passion with enthusiasm! He got the best instructors, bought the best aircraft and had them maintained by the best mechanics. And from all accounts he was a helluva pilot.

 

But, beyond his passion and success, Ray was a good family man and a good friend. I had the pleasure of seeing him with Janna and their four boys (Dylan, Justin, Byron and Jayden) several times and it always brought a smile to my face. Their home is a young boy’s dream and he got to be the fifth little-boy in their backyard Disneyland…

Ray was very generous – sometimes men of means will get involved in warbirds but not get involved with us blue-collar CAF types. This was the opposite with Ray. He and Janna became active members of the High Sky Wing and were exceedingly generous with their time, resources and airplanes. He loved hanging out with any of the membership to talk airplanes and history.

On a personal note, Ray was a great friend to me in my role here at the CAF. He and I collaborated on the long-term plans for the CAF and he quickly became a member of my “kitchen cabinet”. He was very helpful and supportive to me during the turmoil created around the move of CAF HQ. He felt it was the right thing for the organization and worked behind the scenes to bring differing views together and he would often call or text me encouragement. Ray had great dreams about building a hangar across from the Commemorative Center and Janna and I had just met with the Airport to get things rolling. He wanted to be close to the CAF so that he could help improve our Museum with his collection of airplanes on display in OUR hangar – such generosity!

As I look back in my phone, his last text to me was a request to help him source WWII flags for his “hangar / museum”. That makes me smile – Ray planned on his new hangar being as much a museum for others to enjoy- as a repository for his fun.

 

I will miss you Ray.

Steve

Top photo by Frank Mormillo from AIRSHO 2012, other photos from Facebook.

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Wing Staff Conference (WSC) is just around the corner and along with the fun and great information that gets passed along, the CAF Hall of Fame is an event worth attending by every member. If you attend WSC, your ticket is free for this black tie optional dinner, but even if you don’t attend WSC, a ticket for a fabulous evening and diner is only $60. What’s great about this Hall of Fame is that we “honor our own”. If you think about a Hall of Fame in the abstract, who among us would ever end up in such a place? I know that the answer is probably no one….I know that I would never end up in the Academic Hall of Fame at my school. I’m not the world’s greatest pilot, or world’s fastest (insert sport here). And most of us are in the same boat.

But in the CAF Hall of Fame, regular Joe’s (and Josephine’s) like us can end up in the CAF Hall of Fame; just through dedication and commitment. Don’t get me wrong, very few members end up there and all have dedicated much of their life….but it was not through some extraordinary fete or donation, or heroism. It was from doing a great job, for twenty or more years; with selfless dedication. The qualification in the CAF Hall of Fame Guide reads, “Must have dedicated themselves selflessly, resulting in significant contributions to the CAF's mission, growth and strength”.

This year’s inductees, like those who came before them, certainly qualify. Both George W. Lodge and Ted Short are members who I know quite well and had the honor of working for, as both were on the General Staff when I arrived. Those two men would not consider themselves exceptional, but fact is that they put exceptional love and dedication into the CAF and we are a better organization because of them.

Please come honor them and celebrate a wonderful evening together. Saturday March 1st. Call 432-563-1000 ext. 2221 for information or tickets.

 

Steve

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My New Year’s resolution is to do better with my Blog and I hope to do so by just using short blips of info:

·         In late December we received a donation of 3 (yes, three!) T-34’s – that made for 5 total airplanes donated to the CAF in 2013! And a grand total of 165 airplanes in the fleet…

·         If you belong to AOPA, you might have read their President’s Position Report at the front of the mag. He / Mark Baker talked about the cooperation of all of the GA Associations – I totally agree! He listed a bunch of GA Alphabets, but the one that slipped his mind was the CAF. So, I wrote Mark an upbeat note reminding him about us and all of the wonderful work we do in air shows and educating Americans across the country!

·         We are meeting with the finalist airports for National Airbase in the next 30 days and it is getting exciting – especially since we have been doing some conceptualizing with an architect.

·         We also have a unique and talented “consultant” on our team who is helping our design and ideation team to think out of the traditional paradigm of Museums.

·         Wing Staff Conference will be fun, educational and exciting this year – DON’T MISS IT. Feb 28-Mar21

·         How about our two CAF Hall of Fame inductees - Ted Short and George Lodge. Two devoted CAF members embody the CAF spirit! ( I often introduce Ted as my Grandfather – he loves that!)

More news later!

SB

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This is the first blog on the new website. The way it looks and how it works are very different. We are really excited to be able to have all the new options to notify you of new posts as well as alow you to repost the blog in an easy way. We hope you enjoy reading the blog!  

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