"TC" Johnson was born in 1938 and grew up in the aviation industry in southern California where his dad was chief safety engineer for Northrop Aircraft. There, he got to meet test pilots and watch "first flights" of planes like the "flying wing" (YB-49). Yet he was a train nut and wanted to be a locomotive engineer. He went to the Montana School of Mines in Butte, and then got a job with the Santa Fe Railroad as a civil engineer. The draft interrupted that, so he applied for Aviation Cadets and wound up teaching B-52 crews advanced navigation, radar and electronics. The electronics side came from after school jobs for years in a radio and TV repair shop.
He was planning on going back to the railroad, but some of his USAF pilot buddies talked him into taking flying lessons and trying for the airlines. He took his first pilot lesson at the beginning of 1966, seemed to have a knack for it, and soloed in four hours. Ten months later with slightly over 700 hours time (plus 2,300 hours in air force T-29s as a navigator), he was hired by Pan Am. They put him in a six-week school where he darned near learned how to build a Boeing 707. For the flying part, they stuck him in the right seat of a 707-300B, and he started a takeoff on runway 1 at SFO. Right where 1 crosses runways 28L and 28R, the training captain cut the upwind (#1) engine, but "TC" figured it must be like a tail dragger and danced on the rudder ... thus, his first multi-engine takeoff.
He had a great career with Pan Am in spite of the constant Arab attacks, and says Pan Am was the most recognized USA symbol, next to Coca-Cola. He was initially hired as a relief co-pilot navigator, then progressed to flight engineer. He was selected to be an instructor at the Pan Am flight academy in the late 70's, and in the mid 80's he was called back to teach the 747. He finally had enough seniority to check out as a 727 captain just a year before Pan Am's demise. Delta Air Lines picked up some routes and airplanes from Pan Am and "TC" was fortunate to be selected as a pilot even though his seniority was readjusted down by 20 years. With his seniority chopped out from under, he never got to fly as captain again.
His years with the airlines gave "TC" the chance to get rated in the B-747, B-727, A-310, B-757, and B-767. He also flew the 737, but as copilot, thus no B-737 rating. The last two years with Delta, he moved back to flight engineer since he was over age 60, not allowed to sit up front anymore. Altogether, he put in 25 years with Pan Am and 9 years with Delta, which he says helps his retirement income, since he didn't get much from Pan Am.
Upon retirement, "TC" and his wife, who enjoys flying, moved to Wyoming and bought a 1964 turbo PA-30, N7460Y. They have a place in southern Nevada to get away from the Wyoming cold, and wanted a magic carpet to take them there. As some of you may know, "TC" was doing some instrument tests one day and "suspended" his checklist, and that led to a very smooth gear up landing. He was so ashamed, he intended to quit flying right then and there. But his wife and the FBO said otherwise, so he decided to really get professional again ... even if it was "only a light plane". Two years ago, when the local FBO, Star West Aviation, started flying some freight and check runs, "TC" was asked to be chief pilot. So now he does some charter work, flying oil tools, forest service people, and others, plus administering training flights for some of Star West's pilots. They currently operate a Cessna 310, Cessna 340, and 3 Navajos. The operations center is in Evanston, Wyoming, and the check runs originate along the Denver front range airports.
As an aside, "TC" finds his flying now as challenging as any he ever did in his airline career. In this segment of the aviation community, there are no backups of dispatchers, operations offices, around the clock technical support, a two pilot cockpit, computers galore in the cockpit and on the ground, glass cockpits, automatic landing, Cat III approaches, refreshments which arrive on deck by a magic hand, and more. Weather dependence, weather understanding, and flight planning are a totally different ball game.
In the flying game, "TC" just goes by his initials, and always has since he got his start in aviation. When he went through aviation cadets at the beginning of the 1960's there were three Johnsons among the class of 46 cadets. Nineteen graduated and the Johnsons got tagged with their initials.
Thus, in the flying world, he goes by "TC", which is short for Terrill Clark. Although, at home and around family, it's Terry. He adds that not using his full name probably is a reflex from his childhood, for whenever he heard his full name called, he knew he was in trouble.
Nowadays, the initials "TC" have an additional connotation … one he is very proud of:
Two happy "TC"s