After 50 years in the air, it may be a fair question to ask Jimmy Fordham if he has spent more time on earth or in its skies.

“My dad was really the person that got me interested in flying. I was very thankful that he enjoyed aviation because he put a real love of it in my heart,” Fordham said.

A New Flight Path

Now a Slot Pilot for the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team, Fordham is still exploring the aviation world. After retiring from Northwest Airlines, he returned to the tight-knit air show circuit in his 1943 North American AT-6, which he purchased in 2011.

The plane is an authentic aircraft built in Dallas and was housed in Mexico until 1989, Fordham says. It is the same model that the United States Air Force used in the European theater of World War II before the fighter planes became more prominent.

Even though the plane is vintage, Fordham uses state-of-the-art technology in his cockpit to navigate the skies, whether he is flying in a straight line or in the middle of a barrel roll. He relies on modern software from Aspen Avionics to perform to the best of his abilities.

“The heart and soul of this thing are the two Aspen units. I’ve got a multifunction display and a primary flight display that are located right in the center of the aircraft,” Fordham explained. “The Aspens are fantastic. They allow us to file IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) if we have to, and to get from point A to point B if we had to get to an airshow.”

1943 Meets 2019

These upgrades are particularly important to Fordham, who says his situational awareness is critical during events and of course the units provide safety.

The Aspen devices help Fordham enjoy flying this particular plane and he does not take for granted that not everyone who has sat in the AT-6’s cockpit has had such peace of mind.

With comprehensive hazard awareness capabilities, traffic sensors and sunlight-readable display screens, Fordham is as equipped as any pilot, regardless of plane. This is something not afforded to the original AT-6 pilots, but something Fordham reflects on sometimes.

“I liked going to Europe because I actually got to see a lot of the places the World War II pilots flew, and you’d have to think, ‘Wow there were people back in World War II flying over this same area, and they weren’t enjoying it like I am. They were fighting for our freedom’,” he said.

Fordham may have seen everything there is to see from his cockpit, but even after a half-century, he may never have been happier in the skies than he is today.

To see how Aspen Avionics is helping to inspire the next generation of pilots, click here.

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