When young James Birdsong arrived at Dallas Love Field Airport, there was no one to meet him. His parents were back in his hometown of Houston. His grandfather, an engineer for the nearby Texas Rangers radio broadcast team, was at the ball park.
“Apparently my father and grandfather had a miscommunication as to what night I was supposed to arrive,” said Birdsong. “I was an unaccompanied minor. These good folks from Southwest were like, ‘well, nobody’s claimed you, why don’t we put you to work until your grandparents show up?’”
That’s just what he did.
“For about four hours that night I got to work at Southwest,” Birdsong said. “I cleaned jets, went on the 737s, got into the cockpits … the maintenance guys were showing me all of this and it was like a little kid’s dream. Eventually I got picked up.”
And he’s been hooked on airplanes ever since.
Birdsong, a retired officer in the U.S. Air Force, is a new lecturer in Harbert College’s Aviation Management and Professional Flight Management programs, teaching Severe and Hazardous Weather Disruption, Performance Evaluation and Measurement, and Applied Analysis in Transportation. Birdsong comes to Harbert College after leading Auburn University’s summer youth programs and select professional development courses.
A career Air Force officer, Birdsong served as a command C-130 pilot, flight instructor, headquarters staff officer, academic instructor, and squadron operations officer. He held various positions in finance, operations, safety, acquisitions, and strategic planning.
What does Birdsong expect from his students?
“I want my students to be inspired and want to continue to learn more as they leave,” he said. “That energy and that passion will carry them well throughout their life regardless of what track they take in aviation.”