Life After Tappan Zee

Brian McMahon
1953 Graduation Picture
Recent Picture

I spent most of my adult life just trying to become a better person each and every day. While I am still working on that a bunch of things happened over the last 50 years.

After graduation from Notre Dame with a degree in Great Books and then US Air Force Flight school and then Instructor School I spent years as a commissioned officer flight instructor for the Air Force. A tour in Japan and then a tour in Asia was just the beginning as then I got to train for and to hold down the most difficult, demanding and rewarding job in our universe – I became a fighter pilot in combat against an armed enemy. It is impossible to overstate the thrill and challenge of airborne combat. I will let others argue about the war and its results. My job was to fight it as best I could. I did it reasonably well as I lived to come home at the end of the tour and was cited for various actions resulting in some awards, ribbons and honors that I proudly wear.

Flying training called again and I spent some years teaching and developing simulation standards and simulators for flight training. The Pentagon called for me to come join them in that insanity of Washington, DC as a member of the Air Staff in Planning. I dodged that bullet and went instead to the United States Air Force Academy as the Director of Operations. The Air Force Academy is a very special place. Sure college courses are taught and military training is everywhere. You will never get the staff to admit it but the Academy really only teaches two things to each of the cadets. First is that their word is their bond and they are responsible for what they do. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, the cadets are taught that the civilians are always in charge. Much of my 4-year tour was spent developing the plans, procedures and standards for the inclusion of women into the corps of cadets. While some serving officers thought this to be a bad idea I only had to look at my daughters to understand the need and desire for them to be included in the officer training given at the Academy. Sadly, most enlightenment doesn't last very long and there is still a continual need to teach the staff at the Academy that girls are here to stay and you must treat them as well as the boys. Part of the tour included developing specifications for and buying a new parachute airplane for the Academy. That airplane is still flying today after some 25+ years of service.

My next year was spent in Germany. A terrible year in which I was the court directed single parent guardian of 5 teenagers in a difficult country and where I was working as the speech writer for the four star commander and holding down the job of finding bases in Europe for our F-16 fighter force. That tour thankfully ended and I got transferred to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs as the Director of Operations

This tour saw a new marriage and the addition of 3 more teens to the family. Would you like to know the 257 ways to make hamburger palatable to teens? The tour ended with my formal retirement from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel Command Pilot with flying time in T-33, T-37, T-34, T-28, T-39, C-130, C-54, F-100, F-4C, D&E, UV-18 aircraft and HH-43 Helicopters.

Time since formal retirement from the Air Force has seen two major novels written and published with several others in the works, some movies made for colleges and sporting club clients that were remarkably well received, time spent as the host of a weekly radio show about recreational vehicles, some exposure as a newspaper columnist, some work as an opinion writer for family and friend consumption and a whole bunch of time spent in the care, feeding and helping raise a range of grandchildren.

Along the way I managed to become a decent woodworker and have made a wide range of things for family and kids. Several friends and I have kind of specialized in providing catering service for large groups of people from time to time. I have no pretenses about being a chef but have become a really decent cook and enjoy the 20 to 25 typical guests at most family affairs. Our last duty station was Colorado Springs and that is where the kids went to school, college and some even stayed. Ours is a nice town. The police work, the fire department works, there are enough churches for the most hardened among us, we have several colleges playing major sports, an Olympic training center that is a jewel to visit, our taxes put other states to shame and the scenery is just grand. We have a nice life in a nice town and plan to stay here.

Anyone who spends a bunch of writing saying:” I did, I did and then I did”, is just asking for either trouble or for folks to laugh at pomposity. I know what I did and, frankly, am more interested in what you did with your time on the planet. Instead of talking about me let us take a peek at the kids in the family and you can make up your own mind just how well we did or not. We have a schoolteacher, a senior civil servant for a western city, a construction manager, a food and beverage manager, a high tech manager in computers, an airline pilot, a car salesman and a gal in her third year of medical school. Most of the grand kids are on the same path. We strive to teach kindness, patience and higher goals to all of them. Sometimes it even works well.

On balance, I am the most blessed guy to ever graduate from Tappan Zee. I have good health, good family and have done enough things in life for me to look back on with pleasure and pride. T'ain't over yet and I look forward to seeing what happens next. Perhaps some of you might be involved in the next happening.

Contact Information


Snail-Mail: 8164 Steadman Drive, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80920-7011

Phone: 719.213.0927