William George Frisbie

Bill in his Pan American Livery

Bill was born in Washington DC to Karl and Mona Frisbie. He began his travels early in life, attending high school in Seoul, Korea while his father served in the diplomatic corps. Upon returning to the states, he attended Monterey Peninsula College and then followed his dream by joining the Air Force.

In 1955 Bill married Joan in Carmel, CA. After five years of service and flying in the first supersonic squadron, 1st Lt. Frisbie retired from the Air Force and began his 35-year career with Pan American Airways. Bill began flying the Pacific out of SFO, followed by an assignment on Guam flying seaplanes throughout Micronesia.

Upon returning stateside, Bill flew out of Miami before returning west to San Francisco for the remainder of his career.

In addition to years of flying 747's throughout the world, he served as director of flight training and ultimately as Regional Chief Pilot-Pacific. As Chief Pilot, Bill set records in the industry, promoted aviation safety, mentored and supported pilots.


Air Force One

During the Reagan and Bush administrations, he escorted Air Force One on numerous presidential charters for the White House. One of the greatest joys of his professional life was training the Air Force One flight crew on the new 747.

Bill Frisbie, another retired Pan American Captain, flew the 747’s. His experiences are included in a story he contributed to Pan American World Airways – Aviation history Through the Words of its People. Below are excerpts:

"I first began flying White House charters in 1984 when President Reagan made a trip to China. The White House knew that I had flown all the proving and initial flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Canton starting in 1978 as the bamboo curtain began to fall, with the journey of the Boston Pops to Shanghai. The White House wanted the benefit of my China experience as China’s air traffic system was unbelievably backward, mostly ADF approaches, altitude measured in meters not feet, wind speed in meters per second and although the charters carried five crew members, they were all pilots who had no knowledge of navigation in the area. Also, in those days, the de-icing of a 747 was accomplished by opening the over wing emergency exits and having the Chinese beat the ice off the wings with bamboo sticks."

"A Presidential trip overseas is an enormous undertaking. The Presidential staff does not want the public to know the size and cost of these trips. Advanced teams go to each stopover with operations, security and support people and special vehicles – all bullet proof – are flown to each city to await the arrival of Air Force One."

"Many aircraft are involved. In addition to Air Force One, there is usually a backup Air Force One in case of a mechanical problem. Then there is the White House press plane, other passenger jets including 707’s, Gulfstream’s, Lear Jets and countless cargo and rescue aircraft."

"On the White House press aircraft we carried cabinet staff members, security personnel and secret service members. We even took along our own customs and immigration staff so we could clear US government formalities onboard and also carried medical personnel."

* * *

"The longest duty day I remember was returning from Asia on the occasion of Emperor Hirohito’s memorial services. We left Tokyo before dawn for Seoul, South Korea and stayed at the airport all day during the President’s meetings. We then left Seoul around dusk for Washington and while en route we saw a sunrise and another sunset before landing in Andrews well before dark – and then we had to ferry the aircraft back to JFK."

* * *

"All of our trips were exciting as we were witnesses to history. I especially remember the 1987 economic summit which was held in Venice– what a beautiful and romantic place. We also included a side trip to Rome. Then we left for Berlin where President Reagan delivered an address at the Brandenburg Gate in front of the Berlin Wall exhorting President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union to ‘tear down that wall’. The flight to Berlin was a challenge as we landed at Templehof Airport that was used in the Berlin airlift following World War II. We had to fly between the apartment buildings on landing and had only 4,300 feet of runway with no glide path aids. The runway was actually longer than 4,300 feet but was only 143 feet wide so the 747 could only use the first 4,300 feet to permit a turn-around."

"In December of 1988, shortly before leaving office, President Reagan invited our crew to meet with him and have lunch at the White House in appreciation for the support the White House received from Pan Am. This was a great thrill and remains to this day one of my greatest memories from my flying days."

Bill with President Reagan

Upon retirement from Pan American Airways, Bill continued his work as advisor to the San Francisco airport commission, flying and training pilots for Tucson Aeroservice Center, and actively supporting pilots and working to promote industry standards throughout the country. Bill's integrity and service as an airman leave a lasting legacy in the world of aviation.

In addition to work, Bill and Joan logged many flight hours in their own airplane over the past 50 years. Highlights included traveling south with the Baja Bush Pilots from Mexico to Costa Rica and countries in between.

Bill with his F-100 Super Saber