PROFILE “We had serial number 42 and

it was the first Gulfstream to ever receive an FAA 135.2 air taxi certificate,” he explains, noting that he put 4 million air miles on that jet in just a few years. To get ready to work as a flight

engineer, Cupery had to leave Savannah for Canada to learn about the Rolls-Royce Spey engine that powered the GII jet. From there, he flew to Pittsburg to work as a personal steward aboard a private jet owned by U.S. Steel Corporation. For two weeks he learned the ins and outs of catering to dignitaries. Next, he returned to California

to learn about the GII’s navigation system for a few weeks before making a quick jaunt to Phoenix for training on auxiliary power units. When all his training was complete, so was the aircraft and he returned to Los Angeles just in time for flight testing. As a flight engineer, it was Cupery’s job to assist the cockpit crew during takeoff and landing. Then, once in the air, he became the cabin steward ensuring that passengers had plenty to eat and drink during the flight. After landing, he transformed into a mechanic to inspect the aircraft and facilitate any needed repairs. “I fixed that plane everywhere in the world,” he explains. “I once had to replace two windshields in a rainstorm while visiting Rio de Janeiro. I had to work 40 hours straight to keep everyone on schedule.”

In that instance, the plane had

been rented by Justin Dart, the CEO of Kraft, Inc. He was so grateful for Cupery’s effort to maintain the schedule that he invited the mechanic to join the staff on a river cruise along the Amazon at the next stop. Despite having worked nearly two days without rest, Cupery jumped at the opportunity. However, while navigating down the piranha-infested waters, the

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boat’s engine broke down. After a short delay, Dart recommended that Cupery go below to assist the ship’s crew in diagnosing the problem. Within a few minutes of entering the engine room, which he describes as a fire hazard with grease and oil all over the place, the engine fired up. When he emerged from the engine room, Cupery got a standing ovation despite never having picked up a wrench. “I graciously accepted the applause,” he says.

SHUTTLING CELEBRITIES Northrop used the GII aircraft to visit all 35 nations that acquired an F-5 fighter. They flew to air bases in the Atlantic region in June 1969 and the Pacific in November of that year — around the world in each direction. When corporate executives weren’t using the jet for business, the company rented it out to other people. So, in 1972, Cupery began what he describes as the most memorable period of his career — shuttling celebrities around the globe. It was

a tough economic time for America and Northrop wanted to show prospective buyers that the GII could be rented out as a taxi to help offset the cost of ownership. “Everyone wanted to rent the plane because we were the first one to use a Gulfstream jet,” he explains. “Before that, Learjets were popular private air taxis. It was funny because at many places we visited people kept asking if it was a Learjet.” The first paying customer was

Howard Hughes, who needed to be picked up following an earthquake in Nicaragua and shuttled to Canada. Cupery also shuttled several World War II fighter aces on a trip to the Orient, including Johnny Alison, David Lee “Tex” Hill, and Arnie Blunt. He even flew the Shaw of Iran, which was an interesting experience requiring additional training in protocol to learn not to touch the dignitary. An aide would take the Shaw’s coat and pass it to Cupery. Other well-known clients included Sonny and Cher, and the “Rat Pack”

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