Principal organizer of Airline Ride Across America is Captain Thomas Heidenberger, recently retired after twenty-nine years with USAirways. Thomas Heidenberger is joined by Thomas Mon (NetDefender), Sheri Burlingame (AA Flight Attendant and wife of Chic Burlingame), Tony Asterita (USAirways) and Bobby McGee (USAirways).


Thomas Heidenberger

I was born in Munich, Germany and as a child I was always fascinated by anything that flew: insects, birds, airplanes. I emigrated to the States with my parents in 1952, lived and went to schools in the Washington, D.C. area. While working in Chicago in 1970, I met my future wife, Michele MacDonald, who at that time was an American Airlines flight attendant. After we got married, while she was commuting to work via an Allegheny Beech 99, I was asked to come along on a training flight. I was immediately taken aback by the beauty of flight and its complexity. Three (3) years later, after flight school, I returned to the Allegheny Commuter and began my career as a commercial pilot. During and over twenty-eight (28) years with the airlines, I have flown many aircraft and will soon retire. I look back on my career with satisfaction and appreciation. I have met some wonderful people and the folks that I work with deserve recognition. It is my intent to honor those who were felled on September 11, 2001 and to honor those who "carried on" in the days afterwards. I do not want them to be forgotten. I want to tell not my story but the story of a wonderful profession, that has been so good to me and to recognize those that made my "run" so memorable.

Robert McGee

I was born in LaRochelle, France and spend most of my childhood years growing up in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, DC. Most of my weekends were spent visiting the Air and Space Museum. I have always loved airplanes, and to this day, I am still fascinated when I see one takeoff. My career started with Piedmont Airlines in 1974, primarily in passenger service and I have had the opportunity to work in several different airports and have no regrets about the path I chose in life. I am a Bike and inline skate enthusiast. I skate on the average of 20 miles a day and 30 miles on my days off. I have participated in long distance bike rides for national charities. Like my co-riders and dear friends, Tom and Tony, I have met a lot of wonderful people and made a lot of wonderful friends in my 31 year career. It Is with great pride I honor these felled crewmembers of September 11, 2001 with this tribute for they made the ultimate sacrifice, their lives. We can never let these tragedies be forgotten!

Sheri Burlingame

I was born in Nashville, Tennessee and lived there most of my life and a short time in Florida. As a little girl, I thought I wanted to be a school teacher but by the time I was in junior high I decided I wanted to be a stewardess for TWA and "see the world" but, of course, that idea soon changed to an American Airlines flight attendant. But that idea too changed and I married a childhood sweetheart just after graduating from high school. I had my first son after the first year of marriage and four years later I had my second son. I worked in the medical profession as a technician while raising my sons. The technician job lasted much longer than the marriage. After being single for a while and getting burned out on the medical profession I read an ad in the paper that American Airlines was accepting applications for flight attendants. My youngest son was beginning his senior year in high school so I thought I might take a chance, the time seemed right. I applied and to my surprise I was notified to make that trip to Dallas. Needless to say I was ecstatic. After flying for about four years I was working a trip from SNA to DFW and I met "Mr. Right", Captain Charles Burlingame, better known as Chic. He swept me off my feet. He proposed within eight weeks. The next thing I knew we were both transferred to DCA, building a new home in Northern Virginia and very happily married. We were married just shy of seven years when on one beautiful and crisp clear morning in September Chic kissed me good bye and told me he loved me and he would call me when he got to LA. I told him I loved him too and to fly carefully. The call never came. After two years I decided to move back home to Tennessee. Now two more years have past and I realize I lost my compass that September morning and I still feel lost today. After nearly fifteen years I took early retirement but a part of me wishes I could still fly. I will always be proud to say I retired as an American Airlines flight attendant but most of all I am proud of my husband and all our comrades that perished that September morning. My wish now is only to honor their memory and to finish their journey...... "LET'S RIDE".

Paul Guttenberg

I am an American Airlines Super 80 Captain and I was born in New York City. My life centered around the world of aviation; my first flying experience was in the back of a Boeing 707 at the age of five when my family moved to California where my father was a design engineer in aviation. I grew up hearing stories about my father's "first flights" sailing model airplanes he had designed and built from the roof of his tenement, and of my uncle, a B-17 pilot in the Second World War. Typical of aviation families was the favorite recreation of a father and a son: going to local airfields to watch the planes in action and explore those that were parked.

After graduating from the University of California, I joined the Air Force with a pilot's slot. I flew missions around the globe; training new members of the squadron brought me some of my fondest memories of this period. In 1989, I was hired by American Airlines, becoming part of the training department in 1990. I have been privileged to fly a wide variety of aircraft, enjoying the initial thrill of flight with each machine.

I now live in a small university town outside the state capitol with my wife of twenty-five years and the youngest two of five children. When I am not flying, I spend my free time involved in various activities revolving around another passion, cycling. I am on the board of a local non-profit cycling organization, one of the hosts on a local radio show called "Bike Talk", teach bike safety courses and I have established a free helmet program for schoolchildren throughout the county. I have completed three 1200 kilometer events, over thirty double centuries, and looks forward to further sharing my experience with the larger community during the Airline Ride Across America.

The tragic events of September 11th touched me profoundly. By participating in this event, I hope to help preserve the memory of those who lost their lives protecting the people in their charge, as well as to send a message to their surviving families that they have not, and will not, be forgotten.

Rob Zettel

I was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin and from a very early age can remember pedaling my bike along with my two brothers just about everywhere it would take me. My love affair with flying began when I boarded my very first airplane as a passenger aboard a North Central Airlines DC-9 on the way to my first year in college. The connection was immediate and lasting! Four years later and with a USAF commission in hand I soon got my Air Force wings and was on my way toward a career of flying. For the next 14 years I had the privilege of flying an array of fighter aircraft that simply made for some of the best flying experiences one could ever imagine. In 1991 I joined the "Friendly Skies" of United Airlines and for the past 15 years have thoroughly enjoyed both the people and the adventure of flying and traveling worldwide.

My connection to the events of 9/11 are threefold: my bike, my wife, and my airline. It was while on my bike during a long ride that I first learned of the tragic events on the morning of 9/11. Later that same day, the woman I thought was gone from my life was wonderfully back in it. That woman, Ann Marie, who is now my wife, also happens to be a pilot for American Airlines whose flight that day, returning to Chicago, was cancelled in Baltimore and found her and her crew staying in my newly adopted hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. After many frantic phone calls you can imagine my surprise and delight to hear that she was safely staying just down the street! And finally, my other connection to the tragic events of that day is cemented by the memory of my fellow United Airlines crew members, as well as those of our colleagues at American Airlines, which we lost that day.

My wife and I reside in Annapolis, Maryland along with our 16 month old Golden Retriever "Baron". In addition to our dog we both enjoy the beauty of the Annapolis area while sailing and racing in various regattas held here on the Chesapeake Bay. Iím currently a Boeing 777 pilot with United Airlines based in Washington, DC and fly internationally to Europe.

So it is with a deep sense of pride that my teammates and I dedicate this ride to the 33 crewmembers who perished on 9/11 along with the other 3,000+ victims of that terrible day as well as to their survivors. We will ride across America in their honor and memory!

Mark Clark

I grew up in a small town in northwest Ohio called Tiffin, but have lived in a number of places since I joined the Air Force in 1983. It was in the Air Force that I very quickly got the "flying bug" and have had it ever since. I started out as a navigator on the KC-135-- an air refueling tanker, and was very fortunate to be selected for Air Force Pilot Training in 1986. I flew the C-141B "Starlifter" for about 10 years traveling literally all over the globe. I joined American Airlines in 1998, and have flown the Boeing 767 and MD-80. I now live in the same small university town as Paul Guttenberg along with my wife Elise. For the past six years now northern California has been my home-- a place that has allowed me to pursue another great interest of mine-- long distance cycling. I have done many century rides and have also ridden a number of double centuries (200 miles in one day) In August of 2003 I completed Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200 km (740 miles) ultra distance event that pre-dates the Tour de France. Back in the fall 2001 I was mostly flying 767 trans-continental flights from the West Coast to JFK and BOS--it could have just as well been me that day. This ride represents an opportunity for me to honor and bring remembrance to the fallen crewmembers of September 11th, while doing something I have a great passion for as well.