“They do,” he responded.
“Then why hire us?”
“They aren't. At least not yet. But they will, once we get the center built.”
(To be totally honest, the preceding is not even close to a verbatim account of our exchange since Ueltschi loaded almost every spoken sentence with a bomb bay full of unprintables).
So, 25 years later, I eagerly accepted an invitation from Daleville center manager Mitch Alexander to tour his facility during our Rucker weekend and see firsthand how prescient the boss had been.
What I found: FlightSafety's Alabama outpost now houses six flight simulators and two flight training devices all dedicated to C-12 training for Army aviators, among others. It also operates a fleet of eight Cessna 182s, seven Zlin 242Ls, five B58 Barons and 10 C-12s leased from the Army for the purpose. Meanwhile, the Army's Flight School XXI next door is chock-a-block with two-dozen FlightSafety sims and devices for TH-67 training, plus two Huey sims for U.S. Air Force pilots. The center has 150 employees.
Ueltschi had got it right. No surprise, since he was more often right than wrong, and that went all the way back to 1951. At the time he was serving as Pan Am's company pilot, assigned to fly Chairman Juan Trippe, and noticed that business pilots were not receiving training of the quality and regularity experienced by his airline colleagues. And so he founded FlightSafety for that purpose . . . but held on to his day job.
That changed in 1968 when he took the company public. At that point he retired from Pan Am and went to work for FlightSafety full time. By the time I showed up he was pushing 70, rich and still going full throttle. He was fully engaged — crackling, demanding, pushing — and helped energize the organization, which grew to become a global phenomenon.
Famously tight — I witnessed him order one manager to compute the per-cup cost of a month's worth of coffee provided free to customers — he also demanded top-notch equipment and courseware for students, and gave millions of his own dollars for Orbis International, the DC-10-borne ophthalmological teaching hospital he helped found and oversaw.
Alternately coarse and charming, lashing and laughing, calculating and considerate, he was something to see up close and in action. A man in full. And now gone. He died Oct. 18 at age 95.