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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bruce Achterling: Friday's Fabulous Flyer!

Bruce Achterling

Some days nothing goes right, but when that happens you just have go with the flow and realize there is always a reason for everything. This day was a day of connection. And not many Friday Flyers get quite the story behind them as this one.

Tuesday, 7/11/11, I was scheduled on a flight from Minneapolis to Seattle. Great news! I arrived at the airport three hours early— just in time to catch an earlier flight. Unfortunately the flight was oversold— but there is always the jump seat. Unfortunately it was taken by the FAA. No problem, I can hang out for three hours and get some work done. Then I realized my flight was delayed by four hours and departing at 9:30 p.m.— seven hours sit. No thank you.

Well, this happened to be my 30th anniversary, and I’m motivated to surprise my husband and get home before midnight. I checked flight tracker and Sun Country had a flight departing at 3 p.m. out of terminal two. That meant leave security, take the tram, connect to the train, back through security, and I made it to the gate with 15 minutes to spare. Oversold flight.

Captain Bruce Achterling comes out of the plane and introduces himself and welcomes me to join them in the flight deck. We began talking about jobs. When I said, “I used to work for you guys. Kind of. I was instructing for Premair and did some of your training.”

Bruce said, “Yeah, I was in Seattle about 10 years ago. There was a woman instructor who had us over for dinner. We had pasta. And she had some teenage daughters.”

No kidding? That was me! Is aviation a small world or what? What are the odds to cross paths in this manner ten years later?

While I was celebrating my 30 wedding anniversary— Bruce was celebrating his 30th Anniversary from leaving PATCO. The country lost an air traffic controller on that day, but the world gained an excellent pilot.

Bruce was hired in 1986 by Sun Country as a DC-10 Second Officer, but he also worked as a B727 Second Officer. In addition to flying, he was a training pilot. He upgraded to a First Officer and flew the right seat for about ten years. Then became a Captain on the DC-10 and flew left seat for another ten years.

October 2001 is when I first met Bruce. He remembers it had been close to Halloween, but had it been on Halloween he would have been eating a dead meat man instead of lasagna. He finished dinner— didn’t get sick, and continued on to earn his 737-type rating.

December 7, 2001, and all he had to finish was his line check to be fully trained. What should happen on that day? Bankruptcy. But thanks to a great Check Airman he received his line check from Milwaukee to Minneapolis and then Sun Country shut their doors. Six weeks later they started back up and Bruce was om the second class to come back.

Minnesota is Bruce’s long-time home where he lives with his 25-year-old daughter who is attending college and earning a degree in a “bio” field. His son, now 28, just entered the Navy. What an outstanding family and such a small world.

Bruce, it was GREAT to see you again! Excellent 737 piloting skills… maybe you had a great instructor. ;) Thank you so much for the flight home, and when you come back to Seattle… we’ll have dinner again!

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. That is an amazing story,Karlene, and Bruce sounds like such a great guy. How incredible that you two figured out that you'd given him dinner at your house after class ten years ago! You're right, what a small world, and it's so nice when the good things come back to you!

  2. Aviation is a village... I always remind people of that when they try to hide something!!!

    Much as I dont like the flying pringles tubes, I do like the 737 - especially the 800 series...

    Fly safe!

  3. Bruce, if you had been to Karlene's for Halloween you would never forget it. My kids cried when I made them eat meatloaf man...

  4. Wow..Interesting story and I am also amazed that world is small.Thank you for sharing
    Happy 30th anniversary Karlene san!!


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