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Randy Zahn

Class of 1968

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Hello and welcome to my page. 


A Short Biography Since Verdugo


Before anything else I have to say that the whole concept of a Verdugo
alumni web site is a dream come true for me. When we collected our diplomas
on Kersey Field at 5:30pm on that Thursday, June 13th, 1968 I'm afraid I
didn't share the enthusiasm that the majority felt.

While most of you went off to enjoy Grad Night at Disneyland, I got on a
boat and went to Santa Catalina to reflect. I'm sure I was as happy as
everybody else to have legislated education behind me. What I wasn't happy
about was the fact that the walk across the field that evening would prove
to be the last time I would see people who I had grown up with, shared
experiences with, and who helped make me who I am. I found it a very sad

While we were at Verdugo I began taking flying lessons at San Fernando
Airport and in October of 68 received my Private Pilot's License. For those
of you who have ever experienced flight, you will know what I mean when I
say flying is like a terminal disease. Once it gets into your blood, it is
nigh on impossible to get it out.

In January of 69, I enlisted in the Army with a guarantee of going to
flight school. Going to flight school! Making it through would be up to me
and the wash out rate at the time was running about 60%. Having had my
Private for flying airplanes I figured I was a shoo in to fly airplanes in
the Army. When they told me I would be flying helicopters, I protested that
I had never been in one, knew nothing about them and didn't even understand
how they flew. No, I was going to fly airplanes. I was then informed that I
could either fly helicopters or they could accommodate me in the jungles of
Vietnam in an infantry unit. Persuasive lot, those officers.

I graduated from the United States Army Aviation School at Hunter Army
Airfield in Savannah, Georgia as the last class of 1969. I had managed to
place in the top 3% of the class and was offered a transition school before
deploying to Vietnam. After Christmas leave I returned to Hunter to begin
my conversion into the Bell AH-1 HueyCobra, the world's first production
attack helicopter.

Arriving in Vietnam in March of 1970, I served with Charlie Troop, 1st
Squadron, 9th Cavalry of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) at Camp
Gorvad in Phuoc Vinh. The 1/9th stood down as the most highly decorated
aviation unit of the war and I was and am very proud to have been a part of

Upon completion of my tour, I served another year in the Army before
getting out in February of 1972.

I went back to school at Glendale College until landing my first job in
commercial aviation. Back then, with the war winding down and all of the
pilots getting out of the services, jobs were very few and far between. You
too could go and fly helicopters in all kinds of god-forsaken places for
about $600 per month. Before taxes!

My first job took me back to Southeast Asia (SEA). I flew helicopters out
of Jakarta, Indonesia to offshore oil exploration and production facilities
in the Java Sea before being transferred to Sungai Keli on Kalimantan, the
Indonesian half of Borneo. There I flew for Alcoa Aluminum in support of
bauxite mining operations. Great fun.

After a few months in Kalimantan and after being reacclimated to jungle
environments I found myself enroute to the largest jungle in the world, the
Amazon. Living in Lima, Peru and working in the Amazon two weeks off and
two weeks on made for an interesting and exciting 15 months. The Amazon,
with all it's flora and fauna and Lima with it's 7:1 ration of females to
males! It's the only place I've ever been where I would look forward to
going back to recuperate from my days off!

Upon completion of the contract in Peru, I ferried the aircraft up the
center of the Andes through Ecuador and Columbia dropping it off in
Barranquia before boarding a commercial flight for my return to SEA again.
Assigned to the Singapore office, my first stop was Balikpapan on the east
coast of Kalimantan supporting on-shore drilling activities. Two months in
Balikpapan and I was off again to one of the most intriguing country's in
the world, Burma.

After the fall of Cambodia and the closure of their embassies, we rented
the one in Rangoon and converted it into a staff house just down from the
Shwedegon Pagoda. What a magnificent sight all lit up at night! Operations
diversified and I moved to Sandoway, Burma's answer to Waikiki on the west
coast along the Bay of Bengal. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do

Five months later I was on my way back to Singapore flying the aircraft
through Burma, Thailand, down the Malay Penisula to our base in Singapore.
During the next year I revisited Balikpapan and went further afield to
Sorong in Irian Jaya. This, the Indonesian half of New Guinea.

>From there it was to Karachi, Pakistan and an amazing ferry flight. Five
days with overnight stops in Phuket, Thailand, Rangoon, Calcutta and
Nagpur, India and finally in to Pakistan. Interesting place but you can
keep it!

That contract was relatively short term and within six months I was in
southern India flying out of Madurai. With the completion of that contract,
I took the aircraft back to Singpore only to turn around a week later and
heading to Bombay. And that was my downfall. I held out for as long as I
could but the filth, the poverty, and the mutilated children took it's toll
and I left my job to return to the States.

More exciting times awaited me upon my return. My first  job upon my return
was flying for the US Forest Service out of Jemez Springs, New Mexico
during forest fire season. When Fall arrived I found myself  in Sabine
Pass, Texas where I spent four and a half years flying offshore in the Gulf
of Mexico. This job also reintroduced me to flying airplanes as I flew
spare parts and employees between out bases in Sabine Pass, Abbeville,
Houma and New Orleans, LA.

The company closed their operations in the Gulf in 81 and I took a job as
Chief Pilot for a small charter outfit in Abilene, Texas. I flew
helicopters some of the time but spent most of the time flying jets around
the country. Ski trips to Aspen, high rollers to Vegas, and Sting and the
Police for two weeks on their Ghost In the Machine tour!

Next stop was Kanab, Utah where I was Chief Pilot for Energy Fuels Nuclear,
a mining company who mined uranium in the Arizona Strip. Our area of
operation was from Lake Powell to Lake Mead and from Cedar City, Utah south
across the Grand Canyon to Flagstaff, Arizona. This was flying at it's
finest. Spectacular views. Unfortunately the CEO passed away from a massive
cororary and the aviation department was sold off.

This marked my return to the LA Basin where I flew for Airspur, a
helicopter airline. We flew out of LAX to John Wayne in Orange County,
Hollywood-Burbank, and Fullerton. I lived in Fox Hills at the time and one
day I left work and headed home the two and a half miles up the freeway.
The trip took me 55 minutes in the middle of the afternoon and LA was
history. Nice place to grow up, but I wouldn't want to live there!

I did a nine month tour of active duty with the Army (as a Reservist) at
that time and was assigned to Fort Drum in upstate New York, just across
the border from Canada. A beautiful area!

When I finished my tour I returned to LA to visit the folks and got a call
the day after I returned asking me if I wanted a job. It took me about 37
nanoseconds to respond in the affirmative and I was on my way the next day
to Madison, Wisconsin. A move that would change my life!

Madison, for the uninitiated, is one of the finest places you could ever
hope to live in the United States! It consistently ranks amongst the top
five cities in the country to raise families and for every other reason you
can think of. I arrived at the airport and was amazed to find a ramp full
of Cobra's, the aircraft I had flown in Vietnam. First stop after baggage
claim was the National Guard Flight Facility where I signed the paperwork
and would shortly thereafter find myself back in the cockpit of an AH1.
Talk about a kid with a new toy!

My real job, however, was as Chief Pilot for the University of Wisconsin
Hospital and Clinics who were just starting an Emergency Medical Service
(EMS) helicopter program. This was some of the most rewarding and
satisfying, and sometimes heartbreaking, flying I had ever done.

I also succumbed to  a terminal disease while working in the hospital
environment.....Kimititus! For it was here that I met my wife, Kim, a nurse
on the neurology-neurosurg ward next to my office.  Kim and I got married
in December of 1988 and almost immediately embarked on a new adventure. I
took a two year contract with Bond Helicopters in Aberdeen, Scotland and we
left the States in March of 1989.

I had done some training in Aberdeen in the early 80's and fell in love
with Scotland. Getting a work permit was impossible at the time so when the
opportunity presented itself in 89, we jumped on it. The only problem is
that we forgot to go back!

Kim and I live in the small Royal Borough of Kintore (chartered in the 14th
century) along the River Don northwest of Aberdeen. We have two sons, Brent
(11) and our Scotican, Kyle (6), who was born here. Brent arrived nine
months early, like nine months before we got married!

They are great kids and we all love our lives here in Scotland. I am the
Senior Pilot on the Sikorsky S76C fleet, Deputy Chief Pilot for our
Aberdeen base where we have over 100 pilots, and I run the Crew Resource
Management (CRM) program for the company. This entails travelling to our 20
bases throughout Scotland, England and Ireland once a year. And let me tell
you, having to go to Dublin on St, Patricks Day (on expenses) is yet
another hazard of the job!

Most of my work is flying to the oil facililties in the North Sea and the
North Atlantic. This can be quite interesting in the winter when winds are
consistenly in excess of 50 knots and the seas are running with anywhere
from 40 to 70' swells. It is, by far, the most hazardous aviation
environment in the world. There are also the perks too, like flying to the
British Grand Prix and the British Open.

Kim has her own picture framing company, Possible Picassos, but she is
planning to sell it to return to Nursing here in Scotland. We play
Volleyball in a league, and cycling here is awesome. If you like to golf or
you enjoy an occasional dram of whiskey (the real stuff, not the rot gut we
export!), exploring castles, Roman ruins, etc., Scotland is like dying and
going to heaven!

We've spent a week on a boat cruising Loch Ness and the Caladonian Canal,
spent a week living in an operational lighthouse on the west coast,
explored Liverpool Ferrying Cross the Mersey, been to Penny Lane and
Strawberry Field and visited Eleanor Rigby's grave. Sure gives the songs
new meaning.

Scotland is loaded with history and we would all know that had we paid
attention in class all those years ago! Come and visit anytime. We'd love
to have you!

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Please Email me at the link below

I just added some pictures so please use the link below to go to my picture page

Randy's Picture Page ]



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