...his most famous passenger was likely Elvis Presley, with whom Cupery spent his 27th birthday singing gospel songs with the legendary entertainer in his Las Vegas Hilton hotel suite.

of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Sammy Davis, Jr. However, his most famous passenger was likely Elvis Presley, with whom Cupery spent his 27th birthday singing gospel songs with the legendary entertainer in his Las Vegas Hilton hotel suite. The crew shuttled Presley to events so often that the plane was featured several times in the documentary movie Elvis on Tour. “Elvis was a genuinely nice man

and very interesting to talk with,” says Cupery. “The Rat Pack was a fun group to work with, too, although it was sad to watch the breakup of Sonny and Cher.” It wasn’t the GII’s only media exposure. The plane made an appearance in the movie Disappearance of Flight 412 starring Glen Ford, and it could be seen taking off each week in the opening segment for the TV show Hart to Hart, a clip of which can be seen at “I felt sorry for the cameraman

capturing that scene because our pilot calculated the exact position on the runway where the plane would take off,” Cupery explains. “We had to have burned him as we passed overhead. We were that close to him.” The GII held such fond memories for Cupery that when the aircraft’s interior was redesigned, he acquired all the seats and kept them in storage for nearly 45 years. He recently acquired a 1972 Econoline van with 72,000 miles

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on it, then gutted the interior and rebuilt it using the original chairs and galley from the GII.

“I get a kick out of taking it to car

shows because everyone wants to sit in the same chairs Elvis and Sonny and Cher sat in when they were at the peak of their careers,” he explains.

CHANGING CAREERS Although shuttling celebrities was an enjoyable and often envious experience, Cupery opted to give it up when his son, Ryan, was born. He realized he was spending too much time away from his family when Ryan learned to walk while he was on a five-week globetrotting tour. However, he developed such a

strong reputation within Northrop that finding a new job was easy. He went to work for the marketing and public relations department as a spokesman for the F-5 aircraft and served as a liaison for General Electric and Northrop meetings with engineers as the F-17 was being developed. He also conducted tours of the assembly plant and taught classes for engineers on how the jets were manufactured. Later, he worked as the head

of international quality assurance working with companies around the world to build add-on products to Northrop standards. For example, if a country was going to buy a jet, the contract might specify that a specific part, like a wing-tip, be built in that country. It was Cupery’s job to ensure

the parts were built to Northrop quality standards. “I learned a lot about politics in that position. It was an education I’d never be able to buy,” he says. “In fact, every job I have held prepared me to start my own business, which succeeded beyond my wildest imagination.” While overseeing quality, Cupery completed a bachelor’s business administration degree from the University of Redlands in Redlands, Calif. In one of the courses, a term paper he wrote was actually used to train future students, he notes. While flying around the world,

Cupery developed close friendships with the directors of maintenance at every major airport — relationships that would one day pay huge dividends for him. “At the time, I wasn’t even aware I

was developing my future customer list,” he explains. Years earlier, while working as the GII flight engineer, Cupery was tasked with replacing the aircraft windows. The pilot was pretty demanding in how the aircraft looked. Everything needed to be first class, right down to the way the carpet was vacuumed so footprints wouldn’t be visible when passengers entered the plane. To maintain a tip- top appearance, the windows had to be replaced every few years. “But, as the director of maintenance, I had a budget to keep and replacing windows was very

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