Mike began his career in aviation by skydiving out of planes and was a certified parachute rigger before getting his pilot’s license. His introduction to aerial firefighting happened on one of his early jobs as an airtanker copilot on a B-17 out of Hemet‚ California.
He met his wife Marilynn in Flagstaff‚ Arizona where he worked as a charter pilot and instrument instructor‚ and in 1987 they were married on a beach in Hawaii. In Flagstaff‚ Mike was instrumental in developing the air ambulance service for northern Arizona‚ which eventually became Flagstaff Medical Center’s ‘Guardian Air.’ He was appointed Director of Flight Operations in 1988. In the 1990’s‚ he and his wife moved overseas where he first flew for Air Seychelles before becoming a training captain for Abu Dhabi Aviation.
His favorite jobs were the ones that allowed him to use his skills to teach or to help people‚ and aerial firefighting was top on his list. He eventually returned to the airtanker industry flying for Minden Air‚ H & P Aviation‚ and finally Neptune Aviation of Missoula‚ Montana where he was employed at time of his death.
Mike was a quiet man‚ but if you asked the right question‚ you might find yourself receiving a lengthy lecture in response. His desire to know the details on any subject that interested him earned him the nickname ‘the Ruminator’ at work. He may not have been ‘the life of the party‚’ but once in awhile he’d come up with a zinger that would leave everyone in fits of laughter.
Mike’s favorite hobby was working with computers‚ and he liked trying out new software‚ especially anything aviation related. He enjoyed watching old movies‚ reading science fiction and had recently developed an interest in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Mike loved big cats and had a soft spot for orphaned kittens. He and Marilynn adopted 7 stray cats. Mike had three grown children from a previous marriage: Heather‚ Joe and Jennifer; and was the grandfather of Megan‚ Jake‚ Mya‚ Jessie and Taylor.
Mike was enroute to New Mexico to fight the Four Mile Fire when his plane crashed in bad weather in Utah. Ironically‚ the fire was near his home in Alamogordo. This meant he would have had the rare chance to work the fire in the daytime and return to his own house at night‚ rather than the motels he usually lived in during the fire season. Instead‚ he left behind a devastated wife who thinks the universe made a cosmic error to let such a talented‚ intelligent man lose his life so soon before his time.