Ed Downs (Bio)

Ed with Scope

Ed Downs was actually one of the training managers. I’m listing him here under flight engineers but he was not a flight engineer or a pilot for Lockheed. He was a manager and worked in the training department.

Ed Downs L-1011 BIO

Hi to all of the L-1011 team,

Looking at this site brings back many memories of a talented group of aviators. Ralph asked for some kind of “bio,” but given nearly 7 decades in aviation related activities, there is a good chance this will serve as a sleeping aid. Please accept my apologies in advance, because I expect you to be snoozing before you reach the end.

The “40’s”
With a father and mother in show business and a grandmother who experienced “Pearl Harbor” first hand, things were bound to get interesting. My twin brother and I were both quoted in our “baby books” as “wanting to be pilots” when only three years old. Our early education was at studio schools (Warner Bros.) and we did live TV commercials for KTLA. Our father acknowledged our interest in flying by driving us to Van Nuys Airport to watch airplanes, the earliest of which I remember as the P-38. In about 1948, a group of Lockheed test pilots rented a garage across the street from our home to modify their racing planes, the Cosmic Winds. One of these pilots, a guy with thick “hero” glasses took us under his wing and helped us rig and fly our model airplanes. Yep, it was Tony Levier. In later years, both of Tony’s daughters were my students, and we remained friends until his death. Meeting Tony as a kid caused me to promise myself that someday I would be a test pilot and build airplanes for real.

The “50’s”
My brother and I started flying (Valley Pilots) in the mid 50’s, paid for by working at my father’s camera store. The store later became a hobby store, specializing in all forms of flying models. I soloed at 16 and got my private at 17. Then, in 1958, the new FAA denied me a second class medical certificate. I entered a two year legal battle, becoming well versed in aviation law. This experience changed my direction in aviation. By the end of the 50’s, I had my Commercial and CFI. The ATP came later (FAA age limit and continuing medical issue). I bought my first of a long line of airplanes, a vice I plan to keep alive.

The “60’s”
Typical GA stuff, instructing, charter and flying anything I could get my hands on. I became involved in a large contract with TWA to train F/E’s to the ATP level in the mid 60’s. TWA offered me a job at the Kansas City Training center as a 707 instructor. I did GS, sim and some flying, but was not a line pilot. TWA found out about my legal background and I was invited to join a team tasked to create and certify pilot training programs for the yet-to-be-flown B-747. I was transferred to Seattle and worked with Boeing 747 certification staff . Great fun!

The “70’s”
I instructed out of JFK (TWA’s primary B-747 domicile) for a short time and was invited to join the L-1011 certification program. My first three (almost) years on the L-1011 were as a TWA employee on contract with Lockheed. I did certification work for TWA and worked on a co-operative pilot training program between TWA and Eastern Airlines. Lockheed kindly offered me a job in training management (good money and great people) and a couple of more years flew by. As we all know, the L-1011 fun ended and I went back into jet charter. I began writing professionally, continued to this day. I got involved in Lear Jet VA training (ATP) with a bunch of Continental pilots and was invited to join Continental Airlines in the training department. I picked up my F/E and became a B-727 guy. Once again, my legal background came up and I moved into Ops management, primarily dealing with flight management, flight standards and responsibility for FAA legal/political issues with the airline. By the end of the 70’s, I had an apartment in Washington DC and lived there for nearly four years, working with the Airline Transport Association as a lobbyist for Continental. What a remarkable experience!

The “80’s”
Work at Continental continued to expand as I completed studies in engineering and educational psychology. This got me involved in assessment of advanced aircraft and systems. I got to fly some neat stuff! I worked on several NASA projects (human factors and CRM development), some of which continues to this day. But, Frank Lorenzo came along, and the good times ended. I left aviation and entered computer programming, becoming an engineering manager for development of cad/cam systems (CATIA). The good news is I met my future wife (Sue, also a pilot) in the computer business, and her two kids. Both kids are now grown and computer techies.

The “90’s”
The money was good in software, but it wasn’t flying. In the early 90’s, I went to work for a large kit plane company, becoming involved in sales, customer service, flight training, flight safety, air show flying and design. This job evolved throughout the 90’s, with me becoming very involved in the creation of the Primary category of aircraft and Recreational Pilot. I became President of the company in 1999.

The New Millennium
In 2000, I acquired controlling stock in the kit plane company and joined in creating the new LSA category of aircraft and Sport Pilot Certificate. My company designed and certified one of the first LSA qualified airplanes. How neat, I was now doing what I promised I would do when I was a kid. Regrettably, business issues came crashing down on me in 2005 and I retired to my present residence, a modest ranch in Oklahoma, close to my brother’s ranch. Sue and I raise alpacas and perform dog and llama rescue work. I work full time for a national aviation magazine, managing marketing and writing “conservative” editorial views that keep me involved in government activities. I teach weekend FAA written exam classes and FIRCS, with a sideline of doing on-line tutoring for folks having difficulty with new written testing standards. I fly the occasional flight review (specializing in experimental and antique airplanes), do some S-LSA certification consulting and limited certification compliance flight testing. For fun, I fly a Zenith 601B LSA and write a national column on astronomy and astrophysics, a long time passion that I augment with a 12” reflector deep-space telescope. I am still trying to figure out what I will do when I grow up.


Ed and Sue

Ed with Duke

Ed in the Office

Last updated 06/22/13