Bob Briggs is a self-proclaimed “transportation aficionado.”
Growing up near Des Moines, he always had a penchant for transportation. He describes riding the bus lines in his neighborhood, watching the trains switch with his father and brother, and watching planes take off from the airport in his youth, like any curious young boy would. He got his first real taste of flying when his uncle took him up in a small plane at age 12. It was then he realized his fervor for flight, and eventually was able to attain his pilot’s license at age 21 after a generous gift from family. He spent 25 years in the Army National Guard and then transferred to the Naval Reserve where he spent approximately 11 years as a helicopter pilot, also noting that he never spent one moment on a boat and that’s quite all right with him. As a career he first worked as a pilot for the Flying Tiger Line, which eventually became Fedex, and flew for about 32 years. His impressive career aside, he went on to hold the Guinness Book World Record for most pilot type ratings with an astounding 109 total. He says:
"I didn’t start out to accomplish a feat like that, it just sort of grew along the way. Learning is my passion, and most of the airplanes and helicopters I’ve had a chance to fly and acquire ratings with I’ve never flown again- it’s just fun to do and a learning experience for me. As I’ve described myself over the years, I’m a 50-year student pilot."
Bob was also recently honored as the Tennessee Pilot of the Year for the second consecutive time by Mercy Medical Angels. However, his flight hours lately have served a different purpose- helping those in need. He is associated with ten different compassionate organizations, primarily Angel Flights, which provides medical transportation for patients in need.
Bob was inspired to donate his time and skills in memory of his brother, who tragically passed from leukemia at the young age of 16. He takes great pride in getting his passengers to their destination safely, as any pilot would, in addition to making sure they’re comfortable. Many people he transports have never been on a plane before, and unfortunately many wouldn’t be able to reach necessary treatments or appointments without pilots like Bob, especially with the exorbitant costs. Mercy Medical Angels Chief Operating Officer, Stephanie Bollmann stated, “Bob has been steadfast in his commitment to be of service to each patient he has flown, something he gets no pay to do, but he does it with a smile and kindness. We know how stressful life can be for those who find themselves in need of the assistance you provide. As Bob himself says, “My mission during the last three years I’ve owned the aircraft is to give back where I can. It’s been lovely working with you all and seeing the look in the eyes of the patients, it’s been wonderful.”
Bob attributes his ability to complete so many trips to his Active Winglets. Bob bought his CJ1 with Active Winglets already installed but stated he would’ve added them on anyway. “This aircraft wouldn’t go straight to altitude without the Active Winglets. They provide a smoother ride for patients and save money by going farther on fuel. I can provide more stable and safe rides with lower approach speeds and I am able to legally take off in high/hot conditions – I’d be grounded without the Active Winglets. I’m so honored to be able to help in this way,” said Bob.
The biggest benefit he says is the swift climb to altitude and the smoother ride- both advantageous for frequently transporting patients. Since his is a volunteer mission, saving 15-30 gallons of fuel is not only incredibly beneficial economically, but also allows him to complete additional trips. Another advantage is being able to approach landing at a slower, more comfortable speed and bring the airplane to a smooth stop, one of the key benefits of Active Winglets. Bob has now accumulated nearly 19,000 flight hours over a career spanning 50 years. With his extensive experience and the addition of Active Winglets, Bob can fly patients more safely and comfortably, and, as he can attest, Tamarack does indeed take you further.