James F. Downey has been Center Manager and a Gulfstream IV Pilot Instructor at the FlightSafety International Learning Center in Long Beach, California since June 1989. The Long Beach Learning Center provides advanced training for foreign and domestic pilots and mechanics including private, corporate, government, and airlines. The Long Beach Center that he has managed maintains a varied fleet of ten FAA approved full motion simulators that include the Gulfstream IV, Gulfstream III, Gulfstream II, Citation V, Citation II, King Air 200, King Air 300, and Cessna 421. Airline simulators located in Long Beach have included the B-737, MD-80, MD-88, MD-90, and EMB-120. Over 1, 500 pilots and mechanics train in the Center annually. FlightSafety International is a subsidiary of Berkshire-Hathaway with forty Training Centers located worldwide. Each Center is specifically configured to the needs of training in its region. Downey was instrumental in obtaining the first two FAR 142 Training Center certificates on the West Coast, one for airline training and the other for corporate pilot training. His Training Center was previously selected as the top Center in all of FlightSafety for quality of training on client critiques and was the top Center in all FlightSafety for highest percent profit growth in 2003.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Downey learned to fly while attending St. Louis University. He was commissioned in the Air Force after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Language and Art. Downey completed USAF pilot training in Oklahoma and was assigned to Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam, flying over 220 combat missions in the EC-47, earning two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals. He next flew C-141 military transport aircraft in Charleston, SC, and was there selected for pilot duty with the prestigious 89th Military Airlift Wing’s Presidential fleet of aircraft located at Andrews AFB, Maryland. For seventeen years he flew our nation’s highest government leaders for the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, holding positions as Captain, Standards Pilot, Director of the Andrews Command Post, and Chief of Current Operations before retiring in the grade of Lieutenant Colonel in 1989. FlightSafety International hired Downey directly into a management position in January 1989 in its Falcon Jet Training Center in Teterboro, New Jersey and transferred him to manage their Long Beach Center in June 1989. Under his direction, the Long Beach Learning Center has grown into a fifteen million dollar a year business, producing $32M in profits in the last nine years. Downey is an Airline Transport certificated pilot with over 7, 100 hours of international experience, holding ratings in the B-707, B-720, B-737, Gulfstream IV, and Falcon 50.
In addition to his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Louis University, Downey holds two Master’s degrees, Master of Aeronautical Science and Master of Aviation Management, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He lost his wife of twenty-four years, Cheryl, to cancer in 1995. In August of 2000 he married Karen Dale, a local poet, writer, and university teacher. The couple has a combined family of six beautiful daughters and resides in Irvine, California. Downey is also on the Board of Directors for Angel Flight West, a non-profit charity. Angel Flight provides transportation to critically ill patients in owner-operated aircraft to needed medical treatment sites at no cost to the individual. He is also a Director on the Airport Area Business Council for the City of Long Beach.