Jim began his duties as the Chief Pilot for DGI in 2003 after spending many years flying side by side with Fred Martin.
He is responsible for flying the staff to client meetings and investment and marketing conferences throughout the country. He is also in charge of coordinating aircraft maintenance and handling rental car and hotel reservations for company trips.
When earthbound, Jim has an office at DGI headquarters in Minneapolis, but it doesn't compare with his other office—in the cockpit of the corporate jet at 41,000 feet. “It’s the best office you can have,” he claims. “You get a beautiful view of the earth and a chance to reflect on life.”
After more than 12,000 hours of flight time, Jim holds a current ATP (airline transport pilot) license, which is the highest rating a pilot can achieve. It's the equivalent of a PhD for pilots.
Jim served in the military in the Special Forces with the 1/75th Ranger Battalion and was an instructor at West Point Military Academy. He is highly decorated by the U.S. Army for his development of current weapons systems in use today. He is a veteran ARMY HALO (high altitude low opening) Parachutist with a class D license and a “Jumpmaster” rating.
Jim did not begin flying until after he left the military. He took his first lesson in 1977 at the Davenport Municipal Airport. Since then, he has flown 28 different types of planes, including mid-sized jets, single engine props and nearly everything in between. He is a certified Type Rated Captain in five different types of jets.
Whether in the air or on the ground, Jim doesn’t stop moving for long. “He is surprisingly talented in a lot of other areas,” observes Nicholas Hansen “He’s not just a great pilot, he’s a great chef, he’s handy around the house, and a championship boat racer. The more I’ve gotten to know him, the more random skills of his I find out about.”
Jim has also competed in a number of fishing tournaments, including the prestigious Budweiser Invitational Tournament and Lacrosse Invitational Tournament.
His latest passion is biking, after riding in the Tour DeCure for Diabetes in Minneapolis last year. He gets out whenever the weather allows. “I plan to ride about 3,000 to 4,000 miles on my bike this year,” he says.
That adventurous spirit can be infectious, according to Robert Buss. “I’m usually too chicken to ride across the highway, and he got me to do the RAGRAI bike ride 460 miles across Iowa.”
Ironically, for a man known for pushing the limits on land, air and sea, the one word his colleagues always associate with Jim is “safe.”
“When you travel, Jim is the guy you want to travel with,” says Rick Martin. “Whether you’re flying with him in the jet or riding in the car, you know he’s always concerned about safety. He’s a true professional. You feel like, when you’re flying with Jim, you’re in better hands than you would be with anyone on a commercial airline.”
“It’s always safety first when you’re flying with Jim,” adds Rob Nicoski.
“Jim’s a great ‘stick’,” says his long-time co-pilot and understudy, Fred Martin. “That’s the highest praise you can give a pilot. He’s forgotten more about flying than I know.”
“I would trust him with my life,” adds Scott Link, “which is exactly what I do every time I hop on that plane.”