Who is Rich Perkins?

Rich’s Bio: The Very Short Version

Rich is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, a former U-2 pilot, an internationally known air show performer, and an award winning instructor pilot.

Rich’s Bio: The Very Long Version

Rich holds the highest aviation ratings in both the military and civilian worlds: US Air Force Command Pilot wings and the Airline Transport Pilot license for both land-based and sea-based aircraft.  He has over 11,000 hours of flying time in over 140 different aircraft, and he is equally at home soaring serenely somewhere in the stratosphere or upside down fifty feet off the ground at five hundred miles per hour.  As his air show announcer likes to tell air show fans…

  • He has flown high, really high, low and really low, fast, faster, slow, slower and backwards.
  • He has flown the biggest single engine jet in the world…and the smallest.
  • He has flown the smallest single pilot jet in the world…and the biggest.
  • He has flown the only jet in the world with a tailwheel.
  • He has flown supersonic White Rockets, stratospheric Black Dragons and terrain hugging Hercules Heavy Haulers.
  • He has air dropped troops, guns and ammo—and livestock and food and life saving medicine.
  • He has soared on tiny gossamer glider wings and coaxed a thousand square feet of fuel laden jet wings to the edge of space.
  • He has worked his aircraft into the Coffin Corner. and held it there, for hours—lots of hours.
  • He has made transoceanic and transpolar intercontinental crossings in a single engine airplane…all alone…in the dark.
  • He has watched the shadow of the earth creep through the stratosphere.
  • He has watched a lunar eclipse and the aurora borealis from above 70,000 feet.
  • He has seen the curvature of the earth–first hand.
  • He has pulled G’s and rolled and looped high performance aircraft for over three decades.

Graduating from Mississippi State University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, Rich volunteered for the military at a time when others were actively trying to avoid military service.  He graduated at the top of his Air Force pilot training class, with a fighter qualification, when half the students didn’t even make it through the training.  Despite his hard won fighter qual, Rich’s first assignment was the C-130 Hercules, a large four engine tactical transport aircraft.  Still totally a Type A guy, he beat all the training timelines, got checked out in some really interesting aerial delivery techniques and hit the tactical airlift circuit well ahead of his peers, flying tactical missions all over the world.  He became the youngest C-130 pilot ever awarded the title of Aircraft Commander.

To build high performance jet time and get back on the fighter track, Rich volunteered to be an instructor pilot in the supersonic T-38 Talon.  As usual, he was top of the class in Instructor Pilot training, Academic Instructor training, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and every other course of training he tackled.  He was “Proficiency Advanced” in every level of training and excelled teaching fledgling pilots to master supersonic jets.  As the youngest Chief of Academics in Air Training Command, he received numerous “Top Performer” awards and over a dozen “Best Instructor” and “Best Academic Instructor” awards.  He helped manage and train over 1000 Air Force pilots, including a number of the first women pilots ever admitted to the ranks of the Air Force flying corps.

Actively recruited for a headquarters tour at Randolph AFB, TX, Rich became Air Training Command’s expert on flight training and drafted the flying training and academic syllabi still in use today in Air Force Undergraduate Flying Training.  He created academic courseware and instructional audiovisuals.  He authored three textbooks and five instructor guides; and co-authored others.  He introduced computer assisted instruction to Air Force pilot training.  In short, Rich has helped to mold every single pilot graduated by the U.S. Air Force in the past 40 years!

And while he was doing all that, he flew a full schedule in T-38.s, teaching pilots to be instructors–sort of a graduate level “Instructor Pilot’s Instructor Pilot.”

Though Rich was honored with selection by Air Training Command to be a Career Trainer, he turned down this most comfortable of positions, and instead volunteered for one of the most dangerous peacetime assignments possible: the U-2 spy plane.  The U-2 is notoriously difficult to fly, and operates in a near space environment, gathering intelligence all over the world.  The U-2 pilot does the same job — with the same risks — whether there is a war going on or not.  For that reason nobody ever gets assigned to the U-2.  It is one of the few all volunteer military flying units in the world.

Later, as a Battle Staff Officer at Strategic Air Command Headquarters (Think Dr. Strangelove.), Rich helped run U-2 operations world wide before and during the Gulf War.  He set up classified missions all over the world for all sorts of government agencies, CIA, DEA, NRO and all the other agencies you read about in Tom Clancy novels.  When the Air Force reorganized, Rich found himself at the head of U-2 Operations.  When the Strategic Recon Center closed down, Rich found himself a new job.

He volunteered to become the Air Force Liaison to NASA on the west coast.  His aerospace engineering degree, two Masters Degrees he had picked up along the way, and his operational experience made him ideal for the position.  Rich was also accorded the title of Director at NASA Ames Research Center.  He ran liaison offices at Ames and also at Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, CA, coordinating Air Force and NASA assets to everyone’s benefit.  Oh, he also got to fly in NASA airplanes.

Rich retired from the Air Force in 2003 and moved on to civilian life — well, as civilian as Rich is likely to ever get — but he didn’t leave flying behind.

Before he even retired from the Air Force, he began Attitude Aviation to teach performance flying and aerobatics.  Under his expert guidance, and in spite of his lack of a business background, Attitude Aviation grew to be the largest, coolest aerobatic flight school in the United States. Rich sold Attitude Aviation in 2016 and formed a new company, Acme Aerosports, Inc.

He flies airshows in a unique Aerovodochody L-39 known worldwide as the Firecat, and has added a Siai Marchetti SF260 to his air show stable. He carries a full instructional load teaching advanced flying, taildraggers and aerobatics at his former start up, Attitude Aviation, and XL Aviation at Livermore Airport, CA.   With a degree in aerospace engineering and a wide range of flight experience, Rich is in high demand as a flight test pilot.  He has flown the first flights and developmental tests of numerous homebuilt aircraft.  Rich is a polished speaker, entertaining and motivating audiences with his tales of the U-2 Spy Plane and other motivational aviation topics.  In short, Rich….well, there’s no way to put it “in short,” which is why this bio was so long.  So call him, and get to know him yourself.

Click here for Rich’s resume.