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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 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, March 28, 2014

Tat Tatman

Friday's Fabulous Flyer


H.E. "Tat" Tatman, test pilot extraordinaire and loving husband passed away at the end of January at the age of 92.

Tat was not just any pilot. He was my dear friend Robin's husband. He was an aviation enthusiast who started flying before most of us reading this knew what aviation was. He passed away with a sharp mind and a quick wit, leaving behind an aviation world, family and friends who are all better off because of he presence on this earth. I am honored to have known him. With the greatest sorrow for his passing, he will be missed by all.

Where did it all begin? Tat was committed to following in his father's footsteps by becoming a Navy Pilot. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Navy had thousands of more pilot recruits than it needed. The Army was a different story thus Tat joined the Army Aircorps in 1942.


After completing Basic and Advanced training he was assigned to Instructor status (a huge disappointment as everyone wanted combat assignments) and he taught Instrument and Multi-Engine courses. He joined the First Combat Cargo Squadron supplying forward fighter bases under General Stillwell and served in India and China flying the C-46 and C-47.


He returned home in 1945 looking to join the airlines. He was hired by United Airlines in November 1946. In the first 10 years he was furloughed 3 times. Eventually he was recommended to join United's Flight Test Engineering Department in San Francisco. 

While at United he flew every seat in every airplane United operated until he retired. His specialty airplane was the B-747. He attended the Boeing Pilot School, Boeing Mechanic School, and United Pilot training for the 747. He accepted more B-747-100 and 200 models than any other airline test pilot. 

Tat retired from United Airlines in 1981, and continued his long standing production flight test career in to experimental flight test, expert witness testimony, and post crash investigation in to his 70's. He continued flight instruction in general aviation aircraft well into his eighties.

Tat was married four times. He is survived by my friend Robin, his fourth wife, who according to Tat, "was not the first, but would be the last."  Robin is also a 747 pilot at Delta Air Lines.

 Robin and Tat

And just so you don't think he was careless with the ladies, he was married to each wife an average of 15 years, and Robin 25 years. He has 3 wonderful sons, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren all stemming from his first wife, Rosella.

He ordered his martini's dry, shaken, extra cold, and naked; and he drank anything that poured. He never let a lady sit without pulling a chair out, and always kissed their hand's on the first introduction. He also had a great sense of humor. During a toast on Robin's 50th birthday he said, "I never thought I'd be married to anyone this old ... or this long." Robin and Tat were an aviation team that were destined to be together to the very end. He will always be with her.

Tat was a consummate gentleman, loving partner and father, superior line pilot, outstanding test pilot, and excellent instructor. He positively influenced a current generation of airline and military pilots with his ferocious pursuit of excellence and integrity both in and out of the cockpit. His sharp wit and humor never left him.

Tat will be in our hearts always. 
Enjoy the Journey, 
Make every minute count
XOX Karlene 


  1. What an awesome pilot and tribute, Karlene. I would have loved to have a drink or two with this gentleman and shoot the breeze and pick his brain and his experiences that he had. Thank you so much for sharing his story and I will pass it along on social media and especially an acquaintance of mine who is also retired from the UA 747.

    Have a great weekend and a safe/enjoyable trip!!!

    1. Thank you so much Jeremy. When people like Tat pass on, it makes me realize how we are losing a bit of our aviation history. One day all the greats will be gone. Makes me sad. And if your friend knows him, and wants to join the party on April 1st... let me know.

  2. Thank you for the story of this legendary aviator. I feel respect and proud for the people like Tat. It's incredible he was WW2 pilot! Hope God will give us time and health to be useful in our lifes. I share your sorrow.

    1. Than you so much Alexey. Legendary for sure. He left such a legacy.

  3. Wonderful to read about Tat, he seems to have led a full life and pursued his passion for flying well into his 80s! Respect! So rare to find people who have gone through flying the large twin recips in WWII right through the early jet era..

    1. Thanks Capt. I could not agree more. And he was truly an inspiration to Robin in her career too. An amazing man. Robin is pretty incredible too.
      Thanks so much for your comment.

  4. Sorry for the loss of your friend Karlene, and condolences to his wife. But what can be finer than a life spent doing what you love, with whom you love, and having friends at the end who remember you like this.

    Regards, JR

    1. JR, Thanks so much for your comment. He lived a long, wonderful life filled will lots of love and such a great flying career! If we could all live such a life, then that's what it's all about.

  5. Some career & some life.
    Wow,what a guy.
    Doing the things this guy did would make getting out of bed in the morning a pleasure indeed.

    1. Yes, it would make life a pleasure. And he lived with life as if each moment was a pleasure.

  6. He was also an awesome sailor, his slip was alongside mine at Sierra Point in the flight path of SFO. He helped me with the controls on my Atomic Four inboard and hauled me aloft to maintain the rigging. What a super guy!


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