The political skies have changed from clear to pretty gloomy these days for U.S. Senator Ben Nelson and the storm seems far from over for the Nebraska Senator at least as far as his future in politics goes. There was a time however, when the sky was just overcast. I’m referring of course to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) venerable B-17 bomber, Aluminum Overcast, which began its 2010 tour last weekend at Deer Valley Airport in Phoenix, AZ.
Senator Nelson has always known and appreciated the value of aviation, experiencing it first hand as Governor of Nebraska for two terms back in the nineties crisscrossing the Cornhusker state in a variety of general aviation aircraft. That is where our paths crossed.
I was a state trooper assigned to the Executive Protection Division of the Nebraska State Patrol and would from time to time occupy the right seat on those trips. I remember driving Governor Nelson from Lincoln to Omaha one evening and commenting on what a neat job the Aeronautics Director would be. To my surprise he said, "you ought to throw your hat in the ring!" Lo and behold, recognizing my love for aviation he appointed me as the Director of the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics two years into his first term.
It wasn’t too long after that I was able to arrange for the two of us to fly in the World War II bomber from Sioux City, IA to Lincoln Nebraska. (Photos – Kim Stevens, left and then Governor Ben Nelson in front of Aluminum Overcast on the ramp at the Sioux City airport. Stevens getting some left seat time in the B-17)
A lot of folks thought I was crazy for turning my back on the nine years I had in the Nebraska State Patrol, along with a good retirement, for a job that might have ended in two. It was the right decision then and I have never looked back. I was an agency head for six years and I have the Senator to thank for where I am today – still in the aviation world and the publisher of an online aviation journal.
I don’t know what the future will hold for Senator Nelson, but his confidence in me opened many doors and allowed me to develop skills and relationships in an industry I have a great deal of passion for.
Aluminum Overcast will visit 19 cities in six western states from April 2nd through June 15th. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the B-17’s first flight on July 28, 1935.