Alumni Spotlight: Leland C Shanle

Leland C Shanle is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Shanle is a pilot, award winning author, and military/aviation technical adviser for the movie industry. His consulting projects include Pearl Harbor, Behind Enemy Lines, xXx, The Day After Tomorrow and Stealth. His production company–Broken Wing Productions–has worked on several aviation-based movies and series including the Discovery Curiosity Series; Plane Crash.

Shanle is the author of three books; Project Seven Alpha, Vengeance at Midway and Guadalcanal, and ENDGAME in the Pacific–with the fourth slated for release in 2014. He has also written for Aerospace Testing International Magazine and is a Contributing Editor to Airways Magazine. Shanle has adapted his book, Project 7 Alpha as a screenplay for a major motion picture studio.

Shanle’s lifelong interest in Aviation is a family legacy. His Grandfather was in the airline industry in the 1920s and two uncles (Bob USAF, Larry USN) were combat military aviators. Shanle flew naval aircraft in 10 squadrons; including the F-4 Phantom II, EA-6B Prowler and TA-4 Skyhawk. Attached to CAG 5, 11 and 1 cruising on the USS Midway, America and Lincoln; Leland flew 80 missions over the war torn skies of Bosnia, Somalia, and Iraq.

He got into the flight test world when transferred to VX-30, Naval Weapons Test Center Point Mugu. He flew as a Project Officer on various test programs and was the Squadron Operations Officer. Shanle also attended the Project Officer/Engineers and the Out of Control Flight courses at National Test Pilot School. He was inducted as a Full Member in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (SETP) in 1998.

Closing out his Naval Aviation career with 600 carrier landings (200 night) on 11 different carriers; he continues his Aviation career as a Boeing 777 pilot with American Airlines.

Can you please discuss your experience working with UAVs?

I was attached to VX-30 and was the head of the QF-4 program. I had the unique perspective of actually riding in drones. Yes; I was a drone pilot…or Spam, as we called it. We would have to test the system, a UHF data link system, fairly archaic technology by today’s standards; by flying the pattern and doing touch and goes on San Nicholas Island off the coast of LA. Being in an F-4 Phantom while someone flew it from 75 miles away could be quite a ride. The runway on San Nic was on a 500 foot cliff; more than once I looked up to see it before crying uncle and taking control. We also had to test new software loads for controls/self protect modes; which also was quite a ride at times: stalls, straight up departures from controlled flight, etc. Being a UCC controller was a very perishable skill; it is the only thing I’ve done in my career as hard or harder than a night carrier landing. We used what looked like a simulator with a 5X5 TV screen; we landed on San Nic with just that little picture. At the time San Nic was a 5,000 foot runway due to construction, so we dropped the hook and took the wire like on the ship.

The drone was controlled from Naval Test Center Point Mugu with a range of 300 miles. It was an all aspect, fully functional aerial target. We could launch weapons or other drones and dog fight from the NOLO (No On-board Live Operator) QF-4. Our mission was to test new weapons systems and provide Fleet readiness. We normally used telemetry heads instead of war heads to save the assets.

We also launched and remotely or pre-programmed controlled other drones pictured here:

AS 16 launch

A QF-4N launching an MA-31. The MA-31 was a converted Soviet AS-17 Krypton missile. After failing to duplicate the performance of the Soviet system, when the Wall came down we bought a few.

aqm 37

An AQM-37 Super Sonic drone. We would launch the AQM-37 from a QF-4 Phantom at 1.5 Mach and 50,000 feet and then turn 90 degrees out and run like hell. Because the Fleet ships would then start shooting Surface to Air Missiles at it (had an old bud shot down by a CIWS once, he didn’t like it much).

c 130 with drones

A BQM-74 Chukar on a LC-130 wing station with another LC-130 in background. With this drone system we could launch raids against the Fleet.


QF-4N NOLO; (look close no pilot) over San Nic Island.


QB-727 and a chase C-337.

My most recent experience was as the CEO of Broken Wing LLC and droning a Boeing-727 for the Discovery Channel Documentary on aircraft survivability. We put together the old Point Mugu Team for that.

In your opinion, what do you think the future of UAVs will be in the United States?

So where is the Drone Industry going? There is one little problem with drones…they crash, a lot. Broken Wing is working on a project that shows some of the vulnerabilities of mixing manned/un-manned flight. Putting aside loose cannons who are flying drones illegally there is still massive vulnerabilities. Companies that are jumping into delivering products via drones will have a serious decision to ponder when the law suits start flying. Imagine a drone with a pizza and 6 pack dropping over LA like a stone; or one that has gone rogue getting sucked up an intake of an airliner on short final. Real threats.

That having been said; in low density or military applications I think the future is bright for UAVs. They will continue to be in great demand for border protection, observation for police/FBI applications and as a Strike/INTEL platform for all of the military services. From hand held airborne cameras for the Infantry to carrier launched Strike aircraft they will continue to multiply. The up side of unmanned flight in those arenas cannot be overstated.

Now for the 500 pound gorilla in the room: passenger aircraft applications. Personally, I would never get in one. From my perspective, having been one of the few people on earth to have actually ridden in one, no way! In the QF-4 I could take control when things got bad. Has your computer and/or IPhone ever just frozen up or done things you didn’t want it to? You see my point. Redundant systems? Google QF-72 (Qantas Flight 72) a bad system locked out two good systems and almost killed everyone on board.

Practically? Hugely expensive, drones have a very long tech-tail. Operationally? It would reduce the air traffic like a bad weather day. Airports like San Diego, Washington DC and LaGuardia could not be used due to the visual requirements on a normal day. Pilots make the air traffic flow in spite of how over loaded the system is. And on windy days? Simply they would have to shut down the airport. Even the most modern auto-land systems have wind restrictions that are half what the aircraft is capable of landing in (with a pilot).

In summary: imagine a QB-777 dropping on downtown USA some night? The company operating it would be out of business and Congress would out-law the systems immediately. Risk vs. Reward.

For more discussion about the developing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry, tune-in online at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18 for the inaugural Lift, Off the Page roundtable event, featuring Embry-Riddle faculty experts and alumni working in the UAS field. Register to attend: And, read the fall edition of Lift


Alumni Spotlight: Jesse Quirion

Jesse Quirion is a May 2007  graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.  He completed his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the Daytona Beach campus.  He is currently the Interim Public Works Director for the City of Menlo Park.

Jesse T  QuirionWhat has been your career path since graduating ERAU?

I began my career taking an internships with the City of Port St. Lucie, FL while finishing my senior year of my undergrad Civil Engineering program at ERAU. I did not originally intend on going into public sector work when I started school but the opportunity came up and I gave it a shot. After working as a college intern for 6 months for the City of Port St. Lucie I was offered a full time job upon finishing my undergrad. I accepted the offer and joined the City of Port St. Lucie under the position of Engineering Intern which is a full time engineering position with the City. I held that position from 2007 until 2010 when I was promoted to the position of Traffic Operations Manager. Under the position of Traffic Operations Manager I oversaw 13 staff members and a budget nearly $2.9 million, I held that position through 2011.

In 2011 I was offered the position of Associate Transportation Specialist for the City of San Jose, CA. This position required a drastic change as it was in a completely new area and required me to move across the Country, but I expected it to provide me with new opportunities in the future. Then in 2012 I was offered a promotion to the position of Acting Senior Transportation Specialist for the City of San Jose, CA where I lead a team of 5 engineers and staff members.

In 2013 I was offered the position of Transportation Manager for the City of Menlo Park where I lead a team of 5 engineers and staff members and an annual budget of nearly $2.3 million.

In 2014 I was promoted to the position of Interim Public Works Director for the City of Menlo Park where I now oversee nearly 70 staff members with an annual operating budget of nearly $19 million not including our capital improvement program budget. In this role I am responsible for the following divisions; the City’s water/utilities Division, Engineering services, Capital Improvements Division, Storm water and NPDES services, construction inspections services, Transportation Division, Environmental Services Division, Transportation Demand Management Services, City building’s and infrastructure, the Parks Department, Streets Division, and the City’s vehicle fleet services including the police department and emergency services.

What advice do you have for students who are attending an aviation focused University, but do not want to go into that field after graduating?JesseQuirionWPTVStreetLights

I gained invaluable skills sets from attending an aeronautical based university that I would have not captured would I have attended a traditional educational institute. For example my Civil Engineering program provided me with the skills sets needed to perform in a municipal engineering capacity but also provided me with the framework to understand airport design operations and aircraft construction which proved to be an assets with the City of San Jose which oversees the Mineta San Jose International Airport. I believe that diversifying your education and openings your eyes to all skill sets and experiences is the only way to succeed and set yourself apart from the pack in today’s economy. I am grateful for the aviation focus that I received at ERAU as that experience coupled with my work background and management experience has and will continue to open doors for me and may lead to opportunities for me to reenter the aviation field in a management role down the road.

What has been your greatest accomplishment in your professional career?

No matter what level or position I have held I have continued to seek out new opportunities to grow my knowledge base. During my time with the City of Port St. Lucie I completed a Master of Public Administration from Nova South Eastern University, during my time with the City of San Jose I joined the San Jose Chamber of Commerce where I was appointed to the role of Board Chair with the Young professionals and Board member for the Chamber of Commerce, today I am evaluating opportunities to continue my education and I may began working a doctorate degree in the near future. With that, I would say that my greatest accomplishment has been my ability to multitask between a work-life balance while continue to look for opportunities to gain new skills and networking opportunities.

 What are your plans for the future?

I plan to continue my growth within the municipal field while always taking advantage of opportunities to learn and better myself.  Jesse Q1


Alumni Career Spotlight: Nick Kleoppel

Nick (pictured, right) with the Cape Air Safety Team

Nick (pictured, right) with the Cape Air Safety Team

Nick Kleoppel’s aviation career started at a small FBO in Lee’s Summit, MO where he began flight training for his Private Pilot certificate.  This led into a passion for aviation, which drove Nick to Embry-Riddle in the fall of 2005 to begin the Aeronautical Science program.  Nick graduated in 2009 with his bachelor’s degree as well as his Commercial certificate in both Single and Multi Engine Aircraft with Instrument Rating.  During his undergraduate studies, Nick participated in the Dispatcher program offered through the University and attained his Dispatcher’s certificate.

Economic uncertainty was still looming overhead and there were very few promising jobs available; so in the fall of 2009, Nick chose to continue his education at Embry-Riddle through the Master of Science in Aeronautics program. Nick specialized in both Airline Operations and Airline Management, making it a point to take safety-related classes to support the operations and management curriculum.

After graduating in December 2011, Nick accepted a position with Cape Air as a Part 135 Flight Follower with the option to move into a Part 121 Dispatcher position.  During his time as a Flight Follower, the Cape Air Safety Department was beginning to incorporate new safety programs and needed assistance implementing them.  Nick was asked to participate in the Internal Evaluation Program (IEP) with conducting station audits and editing checklists.  Because of the expansion, the Safety Department was looking to hire a full-time position to manage many of these programs.  Nick joined Cape Air’s Safety Department in December 2012 as the Safety Programs Manager.

Tell us about your current role at Cape Air and how you obtained this opportunity

As the Safety Programs Manager, I primarily manage the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and IEP programs as well as participate in general safety investigations, projects, and campaigns.  On the ASAP side, I facilitate Event Review Committee (ERC) meetings between company, union, and FAA representatives to discuss safety reports and develop corrective actions.  I track all ERC corrective actions and recommendations and ensure their implementation.  When in the IEP manager role, I develop checklists, audit schedules, audit plans, auditor training, and any other documents needed to successfully conduct audits and evaluations.

I was able to connect with Cape Air through a network of professors/friends who knew many of the individuals working at Cape Air.  Their recommendations and references provided me the foot in the door I needed to get my aviation career up and running.

As a recent graduate now in the aviation industry, what were some challenges you encountered. 

One of the greatest challenges I faced upon searching for a career was the “catch 22” of the aviation industry.  Most aviation jobs sought by recent college graduates with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree require experience in order to get hired; however, there are limited opportunities that provide the experience you need.  Many college graduates with bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees may not want to take entry-level positions because of the education and degrees they have received.  Many may believe they deserve supervisor or management level positions.

Another challenge was looking for jobs in the Florida area so that I could remain local and not have to relocate.  The problem arises when so many students graduate from Embry-Riddle each year with the same degrees and flight experiences.  Most aviation jobs in Florida receive multiple applications from ERAU graduates who all have the same resume.  There is very little that separates each resume besides the name of the applicant.  Both of these challenges make it difficult to get your foot in the door with a company.

What helped me to get my foot in the door was my willingness to relocate and accept a position that may not fit my desired career path, along with my network connections.

NFA Group, Cape Air

NFA Group, Cape Air

Now that you are in a professional role in the aviation industry, what advice would you give to an upcoming graduate looking for their first career position?

Do not be afraid to accept an entry-level position to get your foot in the door.  I accepted the position of Flight Follower to start somewhere.  There was the uncertainty of career advancement in the field that I wanted.  The natural progression of a Flight Follower is to become a Dispatcher.  Though I enjoyed the experience of attaining my Dispatcher certificate and was willing to follow that career path, it was not what I wanted.    Therefore, I decided that experience was key, even if it was not on my desired career path.  Now that I have joined the Safety Team, I realize there is no such thing as invaluable experience.  The time I spent as a flight follower prepared me for the safety department by providing me the knowledge of how airline operations work in the “real world”, not a textbook.  Through that position, I gained experience working with maintenance, crew scheduling, and station agents.  I learned about weather delays, mechanical delays, passenger service and baggage handling.  Everything I experienced helped prepare me for the safety position.

Many of our graduates have to relocate for their career opportunities.  You moved from sunny Daytona Beach, FL to the Hyannis, MA area.  What advice would you give on relocating? 

Relocating for a job can be very tricky.  My wife and I traveled to Cape Cod for a weekend to check out the area and visit the Cape Air headquarters.  There are many months where the Cape is cold and grey,  but the summer months are simply breathtaking.  We were unsure how we would do living in a different part of the country, but were willing to try it!  If you are thinking of relocating for professional reasons, make sure you are willing to stay longer than a year.  Give the new job, location and yourself time to adjust; you never know where it will take you.  It takes time to meet people, learn about the surrounding area, and to “settle in.”  Every step in life is an adventure, make sure you take the time to stop and enjoy every phase.  Most people do not realize they are living the “good times” until they are over.

eaglesNEST: Connect with ERAU Alumni and Start Building Your Network Today

7084d213-f715-474c-a331-ae8c4407ebdcOne of the most powerful tools for any job search and professional growth is networking.  Networking is a lifelong process by which you build strong connections with those around you.  Your connections can put you in contact with the right people to support your job search, career development and personal aspirations.  The Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University community is a great place to start networking, and you have a built-in group of connections in your fellow alumni.

Embry-Riddle offers you a way to meet alumni through the eaglesNEST online community. Graduates may network virtually through a directory that allows alumni to search for and connect with former classmates based on geographic location and employment/company.  The directory is available to alumni only via a password-protected portal. Embry-Riddle graduates must sign into their eaglesNEST account in order to view the directory.  (Creating an account is easy and free, click here to start.)

One of the most useful ways to leverage the directory is by using the “Advanced Search” method. For example, let’s say you are an aerospace engineer interested in securing a job at Boeing in Seattle, and you would like to get to know alumni who are already employed there. You can use the Advanced Search tool in the directory to search by company name, city and major (and a number of other search terms). Our directory search engine examines the eaglesNEST profiles of our alumni to generate the results. In this instance, nine alumni were identified using these criteria. Alumni with an envelope icon next to their names have an email address tied to their eaglesNEST profiles, so you can send them a note and introduce yourself. Those with a yellow “Post-It” icon next to their names haven’t made their email addresses available; however, you can still send them a message and it will remain in their eaglesNEST inbox until the next time they log into the community.

The eaglesNEST also offers numerous opportunities for alumni to network face-to-face at gatherings hosted across the country and world. Events are often hosted by the Embry-Riddle Alumni Association at tradeshows and air shows, in addition to being organized by alumni chapters, which function similarly to clubs but do not require membership dues. Event information is posted regularly on the eaglesNEST. With more than 20 networks hosting events year-round, you are sure to find an activity near you.

To ensure that you stay informed about events and make yourself available for networking opportunities, keep your contact information current on the eaglesNEST by creating a profile and updating it from time to time, such as when you relocate or accept a new job. This helps the Alumni Association stay in touch and keep you apprised of events happening near you.

As an Embry-Riddle alumnus/a, your potential networking pool is 100,000-plus strong.  Make the most of Embry-Riddle alumni resources such as eaglesNEST and the official alumni LinkedIn group to identify and connect with colleagues who are also Embry-Riddle Eagles.  If you work to build and maintain these relationships over time, lifelong partnerships will result. Happy networking!

Article from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Alumni Relations Department and Career Services

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