Taking flight: Tiffin native spent much of his career up in the air
Flying fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force and flying people around on Southwest Airlines has kept Columbian High School graduate Bill Goodwin in the air for much of his life.
“I just like the freedom,” he said. “I love to be up in the air. I love the challenges that are posed with weather, and when I was in the Air Force, we were always training for combat if we weren’t in it.”
Goodwin said his school years were spent in Tiffin.
“I was born in Tiffin. We moved around a little bit, and then in third grade came back to Tiffin,” he said.
His parents, Bill and Norma Goodwin, now of Venice, Florida, worked in Tiffin at the time.
“Mom taught school at East Junior High and Washington Elementary,” he said. “Dad was vice president for development at Heidelberg.”
After graduating in 1975, Goodwin went to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“I always wanted to fly,” he said.
From there, he went to Air Force pilot training and flew F-16 fighter jets for 20 years.
As a multi-role fighter pilot, Goodwin saw three tours in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait in combat and patrolling the no-fly zone with air-to-air missions and air-to-ground missions.
“We went on long missions over top of Iraq, and enforcing United Nations sanctions as we went,” he said. “Things were pretty tame at that time. I didn’t fly in Desert Storm or anything.”
In the early 1980s, Goodwin said, he was stationed in Germany for three years.
“Those were just wonderful times, flying over there in the early ’80s,” he said. “We visited the Berlin wall while it was still up. It was really interesting.”
He served 14 years as an instructor, teaching other pilots to fly the F-16.
“I instructed for a good portion of my life,” he said.
He taught new pilots, and pilots who were converting from another type of plane to the F-16.
As an instructor, he was selected in 1988-89 to teach Turkish pilots how to fly the F-16.
“I had one tour with the Turkish air force, and I lived in Turkey for a year,” he said. “I was the only American in a Turkish squadron.”
He said communication was interesting because he didn’t speak Turkish, and the people he worked with spoke only a bit of broken English. Out of necessity, he learned bits of the language, but he has since forgotten most of it.
Despite the cultural difference, Goodwin said he was able to teach the pilots different ways of flying and employing the airplane.
“It turned out to be a really good assignment,” he said.
Goodwin retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel in 1999.
Now turning age 61 in April, Goodwin lives in Lehi, Utah, on the south side of Salt Lake City with his wife, Shae.
“I was stationed at Hill Air Force Base when I retired,” he said. “I loved the mountains and the change of seasons and decided to stay.”
The Goodwins’ seven children include four adults — two from each of the parents’ previous marriages who are ages 26-29 — and three boys ages 11, 14 and 15 they adopted from Haiti.
“My wife went down there to Haiti to take pictures for somebody who works at an adoption agency,” he said. “She fell in love and wanted to go that route. So we did.”
Goodwin’s oldest son, also Bill Goodwin, age 28, is following in his father’s footsteps — or flight path — except he’s flying in the U.S. Navy.
“He flew F-18s off the carrier USS Nimitz,” he said. “Now he’s starting school to fly the F-35. He’s breaking ground in that brand-new fighter.”
In civilian life, Goodwin followed his love for flying and learned to pilot passenger planes.
“I started flying for Southwest Airlines, and I’ve been with them for 18 years,” he said. “I’m actually an instructor and an evaluator at Southwest Airlines.”
He teaches new pilots and provides required checks of other pilots periodically.
“I take brand-new pilots after they finish up their initial training and fly with them for 25 hours before they start line flying on their own,” he said.
“For me, it was kind of a natural follow-on to do that,” he said. “It’s flying, but it’s learning to do things differently.”
Goodwin said F-16s don’t have much in common with airliners, except they both fly.
“Everything is different,” he said. “A single-engine fighter is very maneuverable compared to a large airplane.
“It’s a whole different structure of flying,” he said. “Now we fly people from one point another in all sorts of different weather and get them there safely.”
He said he flies today with two people in the cockpit. He’s a captain and he flies with various first officers, which change weekly. On his schedule, he flies about 100 hours a month.
“I usually fly for three days and I’m off for four days,” he said. “When I’m gone, I’m out for¬† a three-day trip. It gives me a lot of home time. It’s really a great schedule.”
He flies people all over the United States, he said, as well as to Mexico, the Caribbean and a few places in South America.
“We’re going to be going to Hawaii at the end year, which is kind of exciting for Southwest,” he said.
In his free time, Goodwin said he’s an avid camper and bow hunter.
“I like to hunt elk and deer with bows and arrows,” he said.
His wife introduced him to bow hunting and they often hunt together.
“As far as deer, you’re not in a deer stand, you’re hiking through the mountains,” he said. “We always have a deer and an elk in the freezer, but it’s really about getting out and enjoying the mountains.”
Goodwin said he doesn’t get back to Tiffin often because his parents live in Florida now, but he stays in touch with friends.
“Thanks to the wonders of Facebook,” he said. “That’s how we keep in touch anymore.”
He visits the area for his five-year class reunions when possible and his children like an occasional visit to Cedar Point.
He said he has some great memories.
“When I was growing up, we were avid sailors up on Lake Erie,” he said. “We had a big sailboat we kept at Cedar Point.”
He played football at Columbian, and has good memories of being Northern Ohio League tri-champs in 1974 as a senior.
“I was very active also in theater and choir,” he said. “And I used to deliver The Advertiser-Tribune in junior high.”
Goodwin said he received his private pilot license at Tiffin Airport.
“My flight instructor was actually my junior high science teacher, Dick Haines,” he said.
Dwight Gnepper operated the airport back then, and now his daughter, Kim, and her husband, Brad Newman, are there.
“Still, when I’m flying over, I’ll come on Tiffin’s frequency and say hi to Kim,” he said.