ISS3 2018

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Goliath Demisie, pilot 737NG pilot, American Airlines LT, National Command Center, CGHQ For an airplane-obsessed little boy, there wasn't anything cooler than getting to sit in the cockpit of an airliner. While wearing the captain's hat. Back in the mid-80s in Ethiopia, three-year-old Goliath Demisie was already thrilled to get an airplane ride on a 737-200, but afterward, when the two pilots asked him if he might want to fly too one day, the experience stuck with him. "I put the hat on, and I never wanted to leave," said Demisie, who grew up with a penchant for seeking new challenges. He and his family migrated to America in the mid-90s, and after high school, Demisie spent the next few years working on his bachelors' degree in aviation. While at Averett University, he met a fellow classmate and pilot, Eric Tucker, whose father was a retired Coast Guard chief warrant officer. Tucker and Demisie became friends, attained pilot's licenses, and eventually established an aviation fraternity at the school. Neither forgot the stories of the 30-year bosun warrant, and eventually both pilots made their way to the Coast Guard: Demisie through officer candidate school, and Tucker, through a single trip to Coast Guard Station Boston. (Tucker fell in love with driving boats, and while he maintains his pilot's license, he's now a tactical coxswain and operations officer at Coast Guard Station San Francisco.) Demisie, who had always envisioned himself taking a commission in the Air Force flying C-130s, took a sharp career turn after hearing about the Coast Guard's search and rescue mission from Tucker's father. In 2008, he joined the Coast Guard under the Blue21 program, which guaranteed him a job as a Coast Guard pilot. "I can fly almost anything," said Perdue, "but it's great to go [to Sector Miami] and do something completely different." When a friend of his told him about a rare opportunity at Goodyear, Perdue threw himself into the training. After a year of training, he added a fourteenth rating to his pilot's license: commercial LTA, or "lighter-than-air." Today, he is one of the four pilots who fly the 246-foot Wingfoot One, based in Pompano Beach, Fla. The semi-rigid Zeppelin airship has the rare tail number N1A, a continued homage to the company's existence since the early days of flight. "I'm a very special car tire salesman," Perdue said, laughing. His nonchalance belies the difficulties of such a prestigious job. A blimp pilot can be in the seat for more than a dozen hours with no rest, and there's no autopilot. He needs to be constantly aware of the strength of the wind on a light, bulky airship, the effects of the temperature on the helium and the weight of rainwater that soaks the external fabric. Perdue credits his success, in large part, to the support from his wife of more than 25 years; the two were high school sweethearts. He said, "She's been my cheerleader my whole life. Whatever I wanted to do, she said, 'We'll find a way to do it.' She knows I need to satisfy my need to learn." When he flies, his eyes rove the skyline as his brain calculates the science of flight, and satellite radio fills the tiny, 12-person cabin. The view is gorgeous during the day, and it holds an altogether different and equal beauty at night. "You're only a thousand feet above the country, going 30 miles an hour," said Perdue. "You'll never see it all." That's exciting for a guy who loves a challenge— trying to see it all. He's flown over so many types of events, every type of sport from college basketball to Nascar, from the PGA to the NFL to the NBA. "The funny thing is that I'm not a big sports guy," said Perdue. "I pray for overtime so I can fly more." � Issue 3 • 2018 � RESERVIST 19

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