James Wesley "Jim" Etchison is a Vietnam vet, educator, and businessman.
Since childhood, Jim’s ambition was to become a farmer, following in the footsteps of his uncle in North Carolina. As happens with many people, somewhere, somehow along the way, fate changed his plans.
Not comfortable with college life after high school, Jim dropped out and joined the U.S. Air Force in Little Rock, Arkansas as civil rights movement swept the South. Three years later, in 1966, he found himself guarding the perimeter nightly as a sentry dog handler at Phan Rang, Vietnam for a year. Still restless, against orders he illegally volunteered to fly door gunner on the Huey “Slicks” with several army attack helicopter companies also located at Phan Rang. After being discharged, Jim returned to Vietnam to work with Pan American Airways in Saigon during the Tet Offensive, remaining there for the next two years.
Back in the States, after obtaining his MBA and Commercial Pilot certificate, Jim settled in Queens, New York. He married, had a daughter, and began flying nightly as a “Freight Dog” on the Northeast corridor from JFK (John F. Kennedy International Airport). When the company Jim was flying for went into bankruptcy, he decided to become responsible for his own career. Having to borrow $35 from his wife, he obtained a business certificate, and Academics of Flight was born. From the school’s beginnings in his apartment, the name materialized as a household word in aviation communities around the globe.
Part One of The Sky is Not the Limit takes the reader through events prior to and during Jim’s Vietnam deployment, which lasted three years, returning to a society against U.S. involvement in the war. His restlessness is apparent during several helicopter missions and events during the Tet Offensive when the city came under a rocket attack on his first night back to Vietnam for Pan American.
Part Two begins with the creation of Academics of Flight and carries the reader along as Jim travels to countries throughout Africa, Europe, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, teaching for various airlines. Jim describes incidents as varied as when he hid in a closet during a coup in Nigeria to avoid arrest to when he was harassed by a fundamentalist on a flight from Dubai to Karachi.
The Sky is Not the Limit is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.