Douglas Adams once wrote that “flying is learning to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” While Adam’s tongue-in-cheek quote may appear trivial, the basic ethos of flying remains the same. David Wheelock ’89 knows the importance of staying above ground from more than two decades in the United States Air Force. Whether touring Afghanistan or starting a new career in military consulting, David has his aspirations and future in sight.

When did you know that you wanted to be a combat pilot and work in aviation?

I always knew I wanted to be a combat aviator. I did everything I could to make sure I followed the right steps along the way. As far as my time at SHC, I took a lot of summer courses so by the time I was a senior, I had completed the prerequisites for ROTC. I played junior varsity volleyball during my junior year and varsity tennis my senior year. While at SHC, I was inspired by many faculty members. Juan Sanchez was a terrific Spanish teacher and I learned a lot from him and my history teacher Bill Krueger. My Modern English course offered the chance to read books by authors that I’ve been a fan of over the last two decades.

Following high school, I attended the University of San Francisco and I was accepted into the Naval ROTC Program at University of California at Berkeley. At USF, I studied mathematics my first two years, and I was also a midshipmen in ROTC at Berkeley because I could take my military classes there while studying at USF. It really gave me the groundwork on how to be an officer, provided naval history and engineering basics going forward.

I ended up graduating with a history degree a few years later in 1995. I enlisted in the US Air Force in 1996 and began fixing F-16s while stationed in South Carolina. I was working in avionics while stationed there, mainly in mechanical and electrical maintenance.

In upgrade training I learned how to fix the radars, radios and flight controls on the F-16. A year-and-a-half later, I was picked up for officer training.

Where did your path lead you as an officer?

I ended up in Italy for two years as a communications officer working in the network department, and then in the airport systems maintenance department. I learned to speak Italian fairly easily. Living in Europe was probably my favorite experience in the Air Force, besides flying. I enjoyed staying in Germany at Oktoberfest and spending New Year’s Eve in Barcelona.

While stationed in Aviano, Italy, I met Bill Clinton and General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe for the Kosovo campaign.

Following my time in Europe, I began flight training in Pensacola, Florida to learn how to be a navigator. I was grateful to meet my wife soon after, as she was in naval flight training. We got married on New Years Eve, and we both got our wings in 2002. We were both stationed in different parts of Texas following training.

What is the most memorable moment in your career as an aviator?

For my first training mission I was in a B-1 (350,000 pound supersonic bomber). We took off and flew for 45 minutes to the Rio Grande south of El Paso, Texas. I sat in the cockpit as the new guy, and I told the pilots where to maneuver as we flew at 600 miles an hour. We were only a few hundred feet above ground and it was the middle of the night. I told the pilots where to go and there were mountains all around us. I was the one looking at the radar and I came to realize how all the math in high school and college, and flight training set me up for this moment.

Another amazing moment was when we flew into a canyon over part of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Having the canyon walls on all sides was very exciting. I also remember flying over Afghanistan in the winter and how captivating it was to fly by snow covered mountains that high.

Overall, my military experience included two years living in Northern Italy from 1998-2000, two tours over Afghanistan from 2004-2006, one year living in Turkey from 2009-2010, and seven months in Colombia during 2012.

I became a Joint Force Flight Instructor with the Navy in 2006 and an Air Force Flight Instructor in 2010. Both instructor tours were in Pensacola. I trained Americans, Italians, Germans and others while instructing in the Navy program.

I even worked at a NATO operation center for a year in Turkey and just recently retired in 2014 from the Air Force.

What is next?

I want to consult in security cooperation or security assistance training. I am working toward a master’s degree in International Relations to compliment all my experiences. I am looking forward to transitioning into the civilian workforce and working on a new adventure.

Located in the

Heart of the city