Real Estate Agent with Captain Bill Realty, LLC



Update to the blog as of January 5, 2013. I have started the book!!!

Target date for completion of the ebook version is the end of July 2013.

To Write or Not to Write

Many times my wife has asked me to write a book on my airline flying career with Pan Am, but I've always declined because it wouldn't sell --- That is unless it was titled something like...

    around the world in 80 ways"

...or something like that. 

However, since I've started blogging I've thought more about it, and instead of a book, perhaps I could just write blog posts about some of the things I've experienced over the years as they come back to my memory. 

I decided on this blog post title just to see if it would create some curiosity. However, if you are expecting to read sexploits I'll have to disappoint you. But perhaps during the series you may find a subject that you may find interesting.

Here are some of the subjects that I will write about:

  • Landing at Kai Tak Airport at Hong Kong, the worlds most exciting and dangerous approach. (Next post)
  • Meeting Charles Lindberg
  • Hong Kong Island Skyline
  • Some of the celebrities on our flights
         Marlon Brando & Tahiti
         Lawrence Harvey   
         Steve McQueen
         Nick Nolte --  He did a "gotcha" back at me
         Shel Silverstein in Tahiti
         Prince Philip (Queen Elizabeth's husband)
  • Greenland
  • The Liki Tiki at Moorea near Tahiti 
  • My belly landing in the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy (I still have the photo somewhere)

..and anything else that I may recall, but not necessarily in that order. 

The Early Years

My flying career began in 1957 when I started flight training at a small airport near Detroit, MI. I was torn between pursuing a career as a musician or going into the business world, and neither seemed to be the best option for me. So I was looking for something else.

When I was still in the Army in 1956, serving in the Ft. Hood Texas 4th Armored Division Band, one of my fellow drummers talked me into taking some flying lessons in a Piper Cub with him. My wife objected because it was expensive, at $5.00 per hour (1956 dollars). But I justified it by using only the extra money that I earned playing dance gigs at local clubs. Photo ID 1685090:
Captain Bill Travis Piper  Cub J-3C
Click photo for large version!

In Detroit, after the Army and while I was trying to make up my mind on a career to pursue, one of my college friends was interested in becoming an airline pilot. That interested me because I had flown about 12 hours while in Texas and had soloed; so I did have the flying bug. We decided to go out to the airport and find airline pilots to talk to and find out more about the career.

Flight Training

After doing that research and determining how I would pay for the flight training, I made up my mind to pursue a flying career, and started to work on my licenses. First I borrowed money from a local loan company at a pretty high interest rate. However, that allowed me to fly more and progress faster, so in the end it took fewer flight hours so the high interest rate was a wash. The GI bill paid for 75% of the flying. The loan would pay an advance amount to the flight school, and when the government reimbursed them, the loan company would advance more. Then of course I had to pay the loan off in a couple of years.

Using that loan, I was able to get my Private Licence, Commercial License and Instructors Rating in about 8 months. Then I got a job instructing and did that for two years until I got a job with Zantop Airlines, an all freight airline that hauled auto parts to and from Detroit. In 1966 I left Zantop Airlines to go to work for Pan Am.
The Curtis Wright C-46 pictured below, was the first large aircraft that I flew, and I'm happy that I had that experience because the C46  is the hardest aircraft there is to land in a cross wind.

The reason is, that you land by touching down on the two front wheels first; then you lower the tail wheel to the ground as the aircraft slows. The body is very wide, and has a very large tail fin/rudder area, so before the tail wheel comes down and touches the ground, the wind can push that large mass of metal around very easily.

When a pilot learns to do cross wind landings in the C46, they can land any plane in a cross wind. Photo ID 0557081:       
Click photo for large version!
Captain Bill Travis, Curtiss C-46F Commando (CW-20B-4)

The instructors job was not an 8 hour a day job. I would usually only have an average of three to four students a day, so I had to supplement the income by working dance gigs with bands in night clubs and private parties. Those were very lean years because we had two children by then and a third on the way.


The Decision

Recently I was talking with AR Ambassador Margaret Rome and something triggered me to tell her about the time when I was fortunate to have Charles Lindberg on our flight and he came to the cockpit to talk to us for awhile. Meeting Charles Lindberg was one of the great highlights of my career, and will be the subject of one of the short stories.

Margaret then encouraged me to go ahead and do some posts on some of the people I met on the flights, as well as some of the places I visited, and incidents that may be interesting to some.

My Favorite City

So thanks to my lovely wife and to Margaret Rome, I will be doing some aviation posts on ActiveRain. My first one will be on the (now closed) famous Kai Tak International Airport on the Kowloon Peninsula in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has always been my favorite city to visit, and I was fortunate to have many Pan Am flights there and be able to get to know Kowloon and Hong Kong Island quite well. The flight approach and landing at Kai Tak Airport to runway 13 is the most exciting and most dangerous approach in the world, and that is what I'll begin with. I'm spending some time now trying to locate videos and photos that will portray the excitement of that approach.

I'm in the process of writing a book, half of which will be about the non-aviation phase, and the rest will be about the aviation phase of my life, and I'll tell as many stories as I can recall that I hope people will find interesting, and will give younger generations more insight into Pan Am the once greatest airline in the world. I'm requesting that if anyone wishes to make any suggestions about what should be in the Pan Am section, or in any other section, that can make the book more interesting, I'm open to all suggestions.

For information or to offer suggestions, send an email to Pan Am Captain Bill Travis

My goal is to have the book completed in ebook form by the end of July 2013.

 Other Blogs about Aviation and Pan Am:

Pan Am, Most Exciting and Dangerous Approach and Landing

Pan Am series, First Airline Pilot Job Interview

Pan Am series, My First Flight as an Airline Pilot

Photo of Zantop C-46 on Zantop Ramp at Detroit Metro Airport

Pan Am series, Hong Kong Victoria Harbor Photo, 1986 by Captain Bill Travis

Pan Am series, Greenland and Nick Nolte

Pan Am series, Marlon Brando, the Celebrities

Pan Am series, Pan Am Pilot Photos, 1 Don Rees

Pan Am series Pan Am Pilot Photos 2 Bill Spence

Pan Am series Pan Am Pilot Photos 3 Dick Mayer

Pan Am series Pan Am Pilot Photos 4 Keith Woodmansee

Pan Am series Pan Am Pilot Photos 5 The Nude 

Pan Am series Squaw Valley

Pan Am series Famous Pan Am Pilots

Pan Am series Get Ants Out of Her Pants

Pan Am series Yo! This is Your Captain Speaking, Listen Up

Pan Am series The End of a Career


PAN AM, by Captain Bill Travis, Pan Am Retired


Comments (73)

Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Maria: thank you, and I hope you enjoy the rest. My wife just reminded me of Pan Am's last flight out of Africa. I was the Captain on that flight, and she had gone with me because we had a 3 day layover with plans to fly on a local DC-3 over to the Masia Mara for a Safari. Getting that flight out of Kenya with all the passengers was an adventure which I'll tell in a story soon. We have a lot of photos of that, but finding them may be a problem.

Tyler, if you're talking about Donna with the girls. They are identical twins Sylviane and Patricia Puntous who finshed together as the first and second woman to cross the finish line in the 1984 Iron Man Triathlon in Kona, HI. I was doing some sports photography and writing articles for a couple of sports magazines as a hobby at the time.

At the Ironman, Donna had allowed me to photograph her doing some interviews. This photo was when she interviewed the twins shortly after their victory. One of the photos I took was used in Womens Sports in an article about Donna and her sports casting career.

Womens Sports Article


May 12, 2010 07:15 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Thanks Margaret, I'll do that.

May 12, 2010 07:16 AM
William James Walton Sr.
WEICHERT, REALTORS® - Briotti Group - Waterbury, CT
Greater Waterbury Real Estate

Bill, it seems like "mission accomplished" with the title alone. Now to hear the rest of your stories...very historically fascinating, to say the least. Charles Lindberg? Wow.

May 12, 2010 08:11 AM
Scott Baker Coldwell Banker Realty - Liberty Township, OH
Realtor Homes for Sale Cincinnati/Dayton Ohio

Bill, That c46 looks like it has a tall fuselage. I bet that was tough to land. I am looking forward to your next post. I have always been facinated with anything that fly's

Thank you

May 12, 2010 08:12 AM
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Captain Bill, you do all of us a disservice by NOT writing about your adventures and experiences.....I find just you thumbnail mentioned on your post quite fascinating and have tons of questions....please reconsider and do take the time. You have seen quite a bit in last 40 plus years in the flying field not to mention how much has Thank you

May 12, 2010 08:21 AM
Renée Donohue~Home Photography
Savvy Home Pix - Allegan, MI
Western Michigan Real Estate Photographer

My former broker was a pilot too :) 

May 12, 2010 08:38 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

James, meetiong Charles Lindberg was the highlight of my career. It's because of him (and some others) that I was able to enjoy a career in aviation.

Scott, the C46 is the most difficult airplane to land in a cross wind. That experience helped me out many times during my career.

Richie, thanks. I'm finding that as I get into this I'm spending a lot more time than I envisioned so I'll have to learn to think faster, type faster, and find the photos faster.

May 12, 2010 08:39 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Renee, I hope that's not the reason he is your former broker. :-)

May 12, 2010 08:40 AM
Jean Hanley
Coldwell Banker Kivett Teeters - Hemet, CA
Specializing in Folks Who Want To Buy/Sell Homes

Wow.....SEX SELLS doesn't it?  What an great and interesting story you have to share.  Can't wait for more to follow.  Toss the book idea, make it into a movie.

May 12, 2010 10:02 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Thanks Jean, it looks like it does. With a movie, then you gotta have the sex, and in today's society, violence.

May 12, 2010 11:01 AM
Chris Alston
Chris Alston (Keller Williams Realty, Silicon Valley, California) - Campbell, CA
Silicon Valley, California

It caught my attention too!  And kept me reading to the end.  Great post!

May 12, 2010 11:50 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Thanks Chris, I just posted Part 3 out of sequence. Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

May 12, 2010 12:00 PM
Deborah Wilson
Hackenberg Realty Group - Canton, OH
Stark County OH Real Estate


We went to Hong Kong in 1989. It was magical.  A beautifu l bustling city.  Later I learned that flying in is a very difficult landing.  After a 18 hour flight, It was good to land safely.  

May 12, 2010 03:08 PM
Michelle Gibson
Hansen Real Estate Group Inc. - Wellington, FL

Val - My uncle was a pilot and has amazing stories and I recently met a pilot at a closing table who really had some interesting stories.

May 12, 2010 03:38 PM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Deborah, it's only the runway 13 that's a challenge. Runway 31 is straight-in over the water and is a piece of cake.

Michelle, it's great that they can relate their stories verbally. I'm more on the shy and reticent side, and always feel like people may not be interested in hearing any stories that I may have, so I don't talk about them. If you and I did business together you would only know that I was a pilot if you happened to ask.

May 13, 2010 12:30 AM
Ken Asher
Cherry Creek Properties (719) 930-7817 - Colorado Springs, CO

Bill - Coming from an Army avionics background I was intrigued to read your post. I was disappointed when you ended your story and found myself wanting to read more. I guess your next post will include the sex part, haha!!! I look forward to reading more. Very interesting!

May 13, 2010 10:48 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

 Ken:   Not to worry, the sex part is coming - No pun intended:

Part 2 and 3 are up. Tomorrow morning part about Lindbergh wll be posted.

PART TWO OF THE AVIATION SERIES    Landing at Hong Kong Kait Tak airport

PART THREE OF THE AVIATION SERIES  Hong Kong skyline at night circa 1986

May 13, 2010 11:52 AM
Damon Gettier
Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert - Roanoke, VA
Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE

I must admit, that the title pulled me in!

May 14, 2010 06:17 AM
Bill Travis
Captain Bill Realty, LLC - Gilbert, AZ

Thanks for the comment Damon, you're not alone.

May 14, 2010 03:39 PM
J. Meyer


My dad, Capt. JW Meyer was a Pan Am captain up until about 1972 retiring in 707's after 33 years. He always said that the highlight of his career was when he had Charles Lindberg with him on a flight to Honolulu. Lindberg was his hero and inspiration to become a pilot. Shortly after that flight he went to Lindbergs home in Hana Maui and spent the day with him. I have a picture of my dad and Lindberg in cockpit of 707 signed by Lindberg.  My dad is still a certified pilot at age 96 with a current medical.  JSM

Aug 22, 2011 02:58 PM