Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1958, the Air Force moved our small family to Yakota, Japan.  After two years, we were transferred to Travis Air Force Base in California.  As my folks didn't want to live on base, we moved to a small nearby town called Vacaville.  With a population of 16,000, it was a peaceful and wonderful town that I was to grow up in.
     After the Air Force commitment  was completed, the airlines in the United States were hiring Pilots.  My Father, Bill Ruth, applied to American Airlines and was hired in 1966.  I was 8 years old at the time.
     As I grew, I was fascinated by aircraft and the stories of adventure that my father told.  Each Summer, I was flown back to Birmingham to visit relatives by myself.  My initial routing was SFO to BHM nonstop on Delta.  As I became a "big boy," I was flown from SFO to MEM on American Airlines, required to change planes (all by myself,) and hop on Southern Airways to go to BHM. 

I was mesmerized and attracted by the adventure of aviation.  The "bug" hit me after a short time.

     As I grew, the city of Vacaville grew.  I found out  from several friends in grammar school that there was a small airport in our town.  I rode my bike frequently to what was then, California's favorite, first class, recreational airport...The Nut Tree.  I gathered information and started to dream a lot.
     After getting my first job as a paperboy and graduating to a dishwasher position downtown, I went to California Skyways at The Nut Tree Airport one day.  I paid them $5.00 for a Cessna "Discovery Flight" to see if flying was for me. 

I loved it!  It was then that I decided that this was the path I would take...

     I was rather introverted and shy in High School.  Though I had many dear friends my age, I had many adult friends early in life.  I got my first "real" job at The Nut Tree Airport mowing grass, cleaning urinals, and mopping floors , at an great business establishment called Patterson Aircraft Company (PATCO).  On weekends, I parked visiting aircraft and took fuel orders.  I quickly graduated to pumping gas and my aviation bug continued.
     My father saw my interest in aviation,  got his Flight Instructor Certificate, and taught me how to fly.  From there on, and in the years to come, I quickly obtained my Instrument, Commercial, and Certified Flight Instructor Certificates.  PATCO saw my enthusiasm towards aviation and channeled it into Training and Aircraft  Sales.  I had my own office when I was 17 and was extremely successful.
     In addition to aviation,  I always loved music.  I would cruise the town late at night in my Plymouth Duster and make a normal route.  I would listen to my 8-track player and dream a lot as I covered my path. 

I would check out the airport, go by the house of the first girl that I ever loved, take a spin in to the country hills, check out Vacaville High, and dream some more...

     I quickly outgrew  The Nut Tree Airport and sadly departed after completing high school.  I devoted two years to Sacramento City College and received my Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic's License and my Multi-Engine Rating.  I studied heavily and dated little.
     I returned to Vacaville in 1978 after receiving my Mechanic's License and continued my education at the Solano Community College.  I returned to The Nut Tree as a Flight Instructor and got a job as a DJ at "The Bright Side," KUIC FM 95.3 radio doing a night show.  I enjoyed playing Adult Contemporary music such as new hits from, Air Supply, The Eagles, Neil Sedaka, and selected oldies.
     At 20 years old, I was high on life and enjoyed everything I did.  I had a very full schedule but I loved it.  With planning in advance, I would rent a brand new Cessna 210, get a load of adult friends, and fly up to Tahoe to catch a dinner show.
     I enjoyed all music and artists...Rock, Pop, Country, Classical, and oldies.  My favorite artist, however, was Neil Sedaka.  It seemed that he was writing songs for me.  I played songs from Neil on my radio show and caught many a show of his at Tahoe and many other California cities.
As the Associate Degree was nearing completion, I had grown attached to a great lady at the college and we became great friends.  After my degree was obtained, and finding comfort in one another, Rose and I moved to Visalia, California where I flew for Security Air Transport.  At this position, I carried prisoners around the country.

     This company rapidly provided me with multi-engine aircraft flight time which I needed as I continued towards my goal.  In addition to my flying, I completed a Bachelor of Science Degree at the University of San Francisco.  After a year in Visalia, Rose and I were married.  In 1982, we had our first child...Christopher.
     After obtaining my Bachelor's Degree, I needed to get Turbine Engine experience to continue my quest towards my goal.  I needed it immediately as the airlines were starting to hire pilots once again.  I took the first available position that was available.  I moved to Terre Haute, Indiana.
     The new position was with Britt Airways, a healthy commuter airline in the Midwest.  The work was rigorous and the pay was pitifully low that I had to get a room with a friend and leave my wife and son in California.  Shortly after situating and upgrading as a Captain, I was able to bring Rose and Chris to Terre Haute from California.
     Our family of three had very difficult times in Terre Haute.  The city was flat, windy, cold, has high unemployment, and virtually nothing to do.  We could not afford a car so I rode a bike to the airport with a suit on.  The pay was so low that it took care of rent and basic foods.  We were so poor that Rose gave plasma to get some extra change and stayed at home caring for or son Chris.  With that and being eligible for WICK, we just barely survived.
     After years of hard work, I was employed by Ozark Air Lines in St. Louis, Missouri in 1985.  After completing my initial class, I quickly moved Rose and Chris to Bridgeton, Missouri. 

     It was a great, small city that had everything we needed and was very near the airport.  I was proud of myself and Rose having going through difficult times and still reaching our goals.  Now being stable, we quickly conceived our second child and bought our first house.  The fun life was to begin!

     It was shortly after getting everything started, my life quickly began to fall apart.  TWA purchased Ozark Air Lines and I got furloughed that nearly the same time that our daughter Laura was born.  We were committed to a home purchase and I was nearly unemployed.   I got jobs at Flight Safety, Radio Shack, and the TWA Ramp handling baggage.  Rose worked when I didn't and we managed to stay afloat.  A year later, I was recalled by TWA.
     Though I returned to work, I was degraded in cockpit position at TWA.  Their training center called me shortly after my qualification and asked if I would like to teach as well as fly.  I jumped at that opportunity.  Things were on a good upswing again.
     One day, I was preparing to lecture to a class of 18 and I collapsed.  And ambulance was called and I was transported to a nearby hospital .  A CAT scan was performed and no complications were noted.  I was examined and told that I was "stressed" due to deteriorating communication skills with my wife Rose.  I took classes in relaxation and worked hard to be a good father and husband.  I quickly returned to the cockpit and the classroom to do my work.
     Several weeks later, while at the training center, I collapsed again.  I requested a different hospital where an MRI scan was performed.  This time, an ill-defined, inoperative,  tumor was located in the middle of my brain.  I was removed from the cockpit, and continued teaching.  My pay got cut to 1/4 and the hard times began.

     Visiting countless surgeons in St. Louis resulted in the same results.  All identified the presence of the tumor but said that it was inoperative.  After seeing a trend, I visited the most highly regarded Brain Surgeon at the University of Washington in St. Louis.  He agreed to exploratory surgery and an attempt to extract it.  The procedure was scheduled on June 26, 1991.After more than 10 hours of meticulous, surgery; the procedure was complete.  A majority of the tumor was successful removed; but due to the length of the procedure, I had a light stroke and slipped into a coma. In about a week I came to.   I was terribly confused but conscious enough to realize that my whole right side was shut down.  I couldn't walk or talk.  I was bedridden and had a bed pan. As the snail days continued, I gathered more information on my situation.  I quickly realized that my life was ruined.  How could it be that I worked as hard as my parents and was a failure.  I had a wife, two kids, and a house, and was now bedridden. As my rehab started, I was the hospital's nightmare patient.  I yelled, cursed, cried, and threw stuff.  I wanted to be rehabbed just enough to get me out of the place.  Then, I could commit suicide. As several days of rehab started, I quickly began getting countless cards from friends, family, and students.  I realized that they were all counting on me to start over and get back into the cockpit.

After receiving 375 cards, I decided to shoot for my goal...all over again.

     The next year got me out of bed and into a wheel chair, a cane, a limp, and back to a normal walk.  I began teaching again but was strictly prohibited from flying again because of my risky surgery.  A quest to fly again was eating on me again along with a celebration of life.  How great it was to be alive and be loved.
     As years went by, my relationship with Rose began to deteriorate more.  She was a great Mother to our two fine kids and was very active on their behalf.  But my exclusive time with her did not exist.  Though I tried regularly to communicate, send cards, bring flowers,  and express pride and love to her, got little response.  We went to counseling and found that we were indeed different.  After 18 years of marriage, we got a friendly divorce in June of 2001.
     Though I missed our family's togetherness terribly, I enjoyed my solitude and was able to gather my thoughts together.   I dated on and off, but most importantly realized how great life was.  I started doing many things for other people and enjoyed the company of my many airline buddies.  In the midst of doing things for others, I still worked at one goal for myself...getting back in the cockpit.
     American Airlines purchased TWA shortly before 9/11 and the training position that I had had for years was now questionable.  Consolidation  of job positions was precarious and friends were disappearing.  Despite this, my quest to reach my goal a second time paid off just in time.  After almost 13 years of hard work, I regained my medical certificate in 2003. 

After 5208 days since my last flight at TWA, I was welcomed back to the cockpit by American Airlines...
the great airline that I grew up with.

     I was in heaven again.  I was able to fly with my friends from Ozark Airlines and enjoy the great adventures and the challenges of flight.
     After about a year of having returned to work, a Captain and I spent the night in Las Vegas on a three day trip.  Early the following  morning  as the Captain was preparing the paperwork  for our trip, I was performing a walk around inspection in the darkness.  Upon nearing the rear baggage compartment on the aircraft, I stumbled upon a leather baggage tag laying on the concrete.  It was of great quality and contained a sharp business card from a Realtor in Pennsylvania.   Because of it being intact, and the business card looked like a person of intellect, I decided to mail it back to the owner when I got home.  I put it in my pocket and off we flew. After arriving home from the trip and relaxing a bit, I typed up a letter explaining where I found the tag, and my thanks for her flying with us.  I placed the letter and her tag in an envelope and mailed it. 

About 5 days later, I received an email from her thanking me for returning her tag and explaining her presence in Las Vegas.  I emailed her back...

     We began communicating on emails, then the phone, then in person several months later.  The next 18 months, we enjoyed the presence of each other traveling around the country and around the world.  I proposed to Jerris Ann Collins at a Captain's Christmas party and she accepted.
     On December 28, 2005, Jerris and I were married.  Where?  In Las Vegas at American Airline's gate D8 where I found her bag tag.  Over a hundred guests flew in from around the country to view our marriage from the terminal building.  About 35 family members and important guests joined us on the tarmac as the minister waved the bride in with a set of aircraft parking cones.  We had a grand wedding celebration with an elegant reception at the Rum Jungle in Mandaly Bay Casino.
      Life is grand with Jerris and me.  We both work hard but treat each other to travel, adventure, and love.  Life is so good when you give your time, love, and energy to others and don't expect anything in return.  As I have said before, "love your life, love your friends, and love yourself, and some amazing things can happen if you do things for others."
     When I am not flying, I am a busy Professional Photographer.  I do weddings, nature, outdoor portraits, nudes, and aerial helicopter photos.  I enjoy blowing glass for neon signs when I can get to the lab, and enjoy the repair old jukeboxes.  My love for music continues with occasional concerts nationwide with Jerris.  I like keeping my brain working and learning new skills.  I am getting a helicopter rating which is quite a challenge.  I plan to go back to college to be a certificated Meteorologist.




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© Copyright 2009 Chris Ruth
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