Jimmy L. Szajkovics
Born in Chicago in 1942, Jimmy Szajkovics had an early interest in aviation that grew into a career that included piloting, air traffic control, military service, FAA safety program management, and helping others pursue their aviation goals.
After high school graduation in 1960, Jim enrolled in engineering at the University of Illinois, thinking an aeronautical engineering degree would pave the way to becoming an airline pilot. Finishing his Sophomore year, he was faced with two challenges - funding was becoming scarce and the military draft was looming large. Jim chose to enlist and requested electrical/electronics training. Assigned an Fixed Cryptographic Equipment Repair MOS, he attended technical school at Fort Monmouth in Monmouth, New Jersey. Following training, Jim arrived at Quarry Heights Military Reservation in the Panama Canal Zone in 1963. In his free time, he joined the flying club at Albrook Air Force Base and began his flight training in Piper J-3 Cubs and Cessna 120s.
Discharged as an E-5, Jim returned to Chicago and applied for a position at Westinghouse Electric. Working days in an office and continuing his flight training nights and weekends. Using his GI Bill benefits, Jim continuing pursuing his dream of becoming an airline pilot, adding advanced ratings - instrument, multi-engine ratings and the flight instructor certificate. Building up his hours and certificates, Jim continued to be out of sync with airline hiring minimums.
After learning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was hiring controllers, Jim put aside his dream of becoming an airline pilot. His FAA career began at Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in 1970. In 1975 he moved to Chicago Midway Air Traffic Control Tower. After working a shift as a controller, Jim was often spent his off-duty hours providing flight instruction.
When a safety position became available at the Milwaukee General Aviation District Office (GADO) now Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), Jim, along with wife Donean and two daughters made the move. He began as an Accident Prevention Specialist in 1978. With an outgoing personality and the expertise needed for the job, he travelled throughout Wisconsin giving aviation safety presentations.
In 1982 Jim joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard to fly helicopters and was off to Fort Rucker, Alabama for training. His Army duty lasted 26 years counting both Army and Guard time, retiring in 2003 as a Chief Warrant Officer 5.
After FAA retirement in 2004, Jim joined the Civil Air Patrol, where he teaches cadets how to fly. He has also worked as a helicopter pilot of NBC Channel 4 in Milwaukee, and continues to flight instruct and give safety presentations whenever asked. Jim and Donean travel the world and enjoy their grandchildren saying, "Retirement is everything it is supposed to be."