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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, February 2, 2018

John Etzil

Friday's Fabulous Flyer!

John Etzil

Pilot. Photographer. Weight Training. 
Reader. Author. Business owner. 
And... he started in Law Enforcement. 

John Etzil graduated from College in the early 80’s. After a short four year stint as a law enforcement officer in New York City. That was around the decided that working for someone else wasn’t for him. In 1986 he ended his brief law enforcement career and has been a small business owner ever since. 

John is also a commercial rated pilot with over twenty years of flight experience, an avid weight trainer, and holds a blue belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu. He currently resides in New Jersey with his bad ass wife, two teenage sons, and two medium sized dogs.

Passion for Photography

I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember. As a teenager, I used to go to high school football games with multiple cameras around my neck and walk onto the sidelines, as if I actually belonged there, and take photos to hone my skill. After the game I’d go home and develop the black and white film in our basement in a makeshift darkroom. At that time I spent every penny I had on learning the art, devouring anything I could get my hands on to read, buying lab equipment, etc. I even made my own color prints.

I was sure to become a professional photographer, but while attending college I learned the economic realities of finding a photography job and, much to my parents relief, decided to get a “real” job upon graduation instead. The aviation bug hadn’t hit yet…

In my mid 20’s I took a trip to Club Med in Martinique with a friend of mine. It was my first time in an airplane, and I was actually frightened! Here I was, in a mighty 747, and I didn’t even get the chance to enjoy it because I was so nervous. I can remember to this day how mad I was at myself. As soon as I returned home, I swore to myself that I would find out how this whole black magic flying thing worked. 

Passion For Flight 

From that point on there was no looking back, and I became completely enamored learning about all things aviation. My dad was a flight engineer in WWII and flew 48 missions, mostly in B-24’s, in the South Pacific, but he didn’t talk much about it until much later in life. I did find out that he shared an air base with Pappy Boyington, and that pretty much started my obsession with military aviation. I started with Eddie Rickenbacker in WWI, and read everything that I could get my hands on about all the greats in WWII like Claire Chennault, Chuck Yeager, Jimmy Doolittle, Bob Hoover, Bud Anderson, etc.

After I ran out of military heroes my attention shifted to civil flying, and in the mid 90’s I finally committed to learn how to fly! I had started a photography business specializing in Architectural Photography, and decided to offer Aerial Photography to my clients after I received my pilots license. The only problem was that scheduling a plane was a nightmare. Weather for a good aerial shoot needs to be sunny with good visibility, and many times I’d schedule a plane and safety pilot, and then have to cancel because of unforecast cloud cover. More often then not we’d get a break in the clouds later in the day, and we’d be good to go. Except the plane was no longer available. 

So I had to get my own Cessna. But I didn’t have the money for one. So I maxed out my credit cards with cash advances and used those monies to purchase my aircraft. Not something that I recommend, but it was the only way that I could get my airplane. That was right after Sept 11, and those credit cards have long been paid off, and I’ve been going strong ever since.

Passion for Reading

John was introduced to Agatha Christie in the late seventies, and became a life long reader of mystery and thrillers after he read Murder On The Orient Express. His favorite book is Deliverance, and his favorite authors include Russel Blake, fellow New Jerseyan AND Hungarian Janet Evanovich, Barry Eisler, Lawrence Block, Wayne Stinnett, Max Allan Collins, and Lee Goldberg, but will entertain anything with Airplanes, Jiu Jitsu, bad ass women with lot’s of tattoos, and big manly dogs. 

"I’ve always been an avid reader, and like most readers, I was sure that I could write a novel. I wasn’t like most authors though. I didn’t come out of the womb penning poems, I didn’t win, or even enter, any writing contests in grammar or high school, and I didn’t write anything in college. Or after that." 

"In fact - I never wrote a single word of fiction
until I was 55 years old!"

"How does that work? How does someone get the crazy idea that after a lifetime of writing nothing but business emails, he could write a novel? A novel that someone would actually buy? I’m not sure, could just be a can-do attitude, or it might be something related to a defective gene that allows an otherwise normal person to buy his airplane with cash from credit cards...

Here’s my thought process though; I was looking for something to do in retirement, which was still 5 – 7 years away. My goal was to be productive, make money, and keep out of trouble. The one requirement that I had besides liking what I was doing, was having the freedom to do it whenever I wanted and from anywhere in the world. I decided that writing novels was the perfect fit. Except that I had zero experience. But, I did have the Internet, a place where one can learn anything!

In 2014, tragedy struck the aviation community when MH370 went missing. I remember telling a buddy of mine over breakfast that it sounded like a Stephen King novel. Soon as the words left my mouth I knew that I was going to write that novel, and Airliner Down was born! His first novel, Airliner Down, was drafted in the summer of 2015. After numerous rewrites he released it in March of 2017. 

Look what the readers have to say
Amazon Comment

I spent the next year or so reading and learning about writing fiction, writing down plot ideas, and outlining Airliner Down. Then I got to work. But I didn’t dare tell anyone that I was writing a novel. Too chicken.

By the end of summer 2015 I had the first draft complete. 70K words of some of the worst writing known to man. But it had good bones. I felt that everything flowed together well and that it was a great story, so I didn’t get discouraged by my terrible prose. Many long and tedious rewrites followed, but I was okay with that. I just kept focusing on the big picture and with each re-write my novel got better and better. I even told a few family members that I was writing a novel! They were nice about it, but I imagined them rolling their eyes when they turned their back to me…

Stephen King once offered the advice that after finishing your novel, you’d do well to shove it in a drawer for a few weeks without looking at it to let it ferment in your mind. Mine fermented almost six months, but he was right. When I took it out (ie: opened it in Scrivener) I had a whole new chapter to add, which was a law enforcement meeting at the airlines LAX hangar. That chapter turned out to be the perfect way to explain many of the technical aspects of the airliner without boring the reader. Now I knew I was really onto something…

I liked the experience of working on Airliner Down so much that I decided to write a series ad make this a real retirement business. I took one of the minor characters from Airliner Down, turned him into a vigilante, and hooked him up with a bad ass woman. The Jack Lamburt Vigilante Justice Series was born! I’m three books in and going strong. And of course, Jack is a pilot. And of course, he often uses his Cessna 206 in unconventional ways… 

So that’s where I am in early 2018. Still flying, still working my photography business, still planning Jack and Debbie’s next mission, and still humbled that folks like my stuff enough to buy it. Thank you!

Fatal Justice: Jack Lamburt Vigilante Justice Series 1, was written during the Airliner Down re-writes, and also released in March of 2017. 

Fast Justice: Jack Lamburt Vigilante Justice Series 1.5, is a sixteen thousand word “Thriller Shot.” It is FREE, and available only to folks who want to join his reader group at

Urban Justice Jack Lamburt Vigilante Justice Series 2, was released in November of 2017.

John's first book "Airliner Down" arrived last week, and I'm taking it to training with me. What? Reading while training! Okay... I did this when I earned my 747-400 type rating. At the end of the day, I would study until an hour before bed, then climb into a hot bathtub and read something fun to clear my mind and get a good night sleep. Without sleep, memories cannot form. I don't read fast, but an hour a night and I'm there. I also ordered his other books to take to Florida for that portion of my training. Reviews coming soon! 

The Justice series captured my attention, as my next novel is Flight For Justice. I also started writing in the second half of my life. Love photography. And... Stephen King, well... let's just say if you want to be a writer, pick up his book on writing. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

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