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Gary, Blake and Jack Moore United Airlines pilot HERO

United across generations

Gary Moore is a captain and line-check airman with United Airlines. but to his sky-bound sons, he's just Dad.

May 30, 2019

By Cory Phare

How was your flight?

Unless there was turbulence, chances are you’ll say “good” when asked.

That’s thanks to people such as United Airlines Capt. Gary Moore. As a line-check airman, Moore is charged with making sure you get from point A to point B safely with minimal disruption.

Currently flying Boeing’s 777 and slated to take the helm of the famed 787 Dreamliner in May, the 1983 Metropolitan State University of Denver graduate in aerospace sciences has airlocked a legacy that stretches into the future, as his three sons follow in his flight-patterned footsteps.  But it’s also one that began decades before, similarly united across generations.

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“My dad was my role model; I aspired to be like him,” he says. “I’m both lucky and proud it’s worked out this way for me.”

In the stars

You could say the Moore family’s fate was written in the stars.

A vintage shot of Jack Moore, Gary
A vintage shot of Jack Moore, Gary's father, wearing his United Airlines uniform. Family photos courtesy of Gary Moore.

Gary’s father, Jack Moore, began his career as a flight navigator in World War II, where he used an instrument called a sextant to make mathematical calculations from celestial bodies.

Following the war and stints with several airlines, he eventually landed with United, where he continued as a flight navigator – barely missing out on becoming a pilot because of age restrictions.

Having his dad in the cockpit helped chart a course for the young Gary, who expressed gratitude for a childhood with travel benefits that brought him to opposite ends of the earth. “Growing up, we were always traveling,” he says. “My mom was from Austria, so we’d visit relatives there, along with family all the way in Australia.”

The career landscape was shifting, however. Advances in aviation technology continued, and by 1975 the navigator role was phased out. But with evolving age restrictions and years of flight experience, opportunity presented itself.

So, at 56, Jack was brought on as a new-hire pilot with United Airlines.

“After just missing out the first time around, my dad was able to spend the last four years of his career in the pilot’s seat,” Gary recalls. “That was really something.” 

Like father, like son

Inspired by his father, Gary eventually followed his own airborne aspirations that took him from his hometown of Los Angeles to Denver.

Beginning at Mt. San Antonio College – which had its own affiliation with United – he came to what was then Metropolitan State College of Denver on the recommendation of one of his father’s compatriots.

And, using the laserlike focus that’s served him throughout his 33-year-plus tenure with the airline, he finished in a mere three semesters, crediting the industry-steeped expertise of the faculty and their subsequent network for launching careers.

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“MSU Denver has such a high rate of success with the students who come here,” Moore says. “Whether it’s becoming a pilot, working in maintenance or airport management, people who come here typically land in the aviation field.”

It’s certainly served him well in a career that requires lifelong learning, something he keeps honed by volunteering for United’s Flight Safety Action Program, reviewing protocols and procedures to ensure that passengers are shepherded to their destinations safely. And as a line-check airman, he mentors the new 777 pilots to do the same.

“On the 777, you’ve got up to 366 people sitting behind you, trusting you’ll know what to do when something doesn’t go as planned,” Moore says. “Being a line-check airman is probably the pinnacle of my career – it’s an awesome responsibility.

“And though I don’t have all the answers, I know the resources to help find them.” 

A family affair

When you love your job, the enthusiasm is infectious.

Gary Moore in the cockpit with young sons Blake and Jack. Family photos courtesy of Gary Moore.
Gary Moore in the cockpit with young sons Blake and Jack. Family photos courtesy of Gary Moore.

Take his oldest, Blake. Now a first officer with SkyWest Airlines, the 2017 MSU Denver graduate credited the advanced simulations and applied training in his program for successful preparation.

“When I showed up to ground school at SkyWest, I felt ready,” says the former captain of the University’s Precision Flight Team. “I already knew the systems, how to start the engines and fly the profiles – the big-picture stuff. All that was left was to see what it looked like out of the front of the window.”

The desire to learn started early, too. Blake – then around 12 years old – began emulating his father on the surprisingly detailed Microsoft Flight Simulator computer program. Upon watching his son virtually flying a 737 into Los Angeles, Moore asked him to tune the radio into the LAX Instrument Landing System frequency of 109.9 – and to his surprise, it worked.

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“I’d start bringing my old instrument-approach charts from Jeppesen, and pretty soon he had a whole binder of them he was working from,” Moore says. “That’s when I realized he was really taking it all in – he’s really interested in becoming a pilot.”

A Boeing 777 flight to Tokyo piloted by Gary Moore with son Blake on the jump seat as part of a United Airlines internship. Photos courtesy of Gary Moore.
A Boeing 777 flight to Tokyo piloted by Gary Moore with son Blake on the jump seat as part of a United Airlines internship. Photos courtesy of Gary Moore.

Middle son Jack had a bit of a longer route to takeoff. Now a junior at his father and brother’s alma mater, he began his college career in Hawaii before transferring to MSU Denver. He currently works at the Denver jetCenter in Centennial Airport and credits even his introductory courses for setting a solid foundation for getting his private pilot’s license.

“I love the program here,” Jack says. “And to think I’m sitting in the same classes, learning the same stuff as my dad at the same school – that’s pretty cool.

“I didn’t want to become a pilot at first, but I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Youngest son, Danny, a junior at Chatfield Senior High School with his private pilot glider license, also plans a future in flight – yet one more Moore, making it a family affair in the air.

Cleared for takeoff

As all three Roadrunners noted, it’s a culture of applied connectivity that makes MSU Denver’s program soar.

Selected as a flight-operations intern for a summer semester with United Airlines, Blake was employed for several months at United’s flight-training center. As part of the experience, students are in the flight-deck jump seat for two round-trip journeys. One of these just happened to be a Boeing 777 going from San Francisco to Tokyo with a certain captain he’d known his entire life.

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To add to the moment, the rest of the family – Moore’s wife, Kara, Jack and Danny – came along for the ride. And though it was one of countless flights they’d joined him on, the longtime United captain felt the faint flicker of a torch being passed.

“All of a sudden, I’m old hat when their brother is up in the cockpit,” Moore says, with a smile. “That was a high point for me, for sure.”

Blake, Gary and Jack Moore at MSU Denver's World Indoor Airport. Photo by John Arnold.

Some people have a runway that’s cleared for takeoff with smooth sailing, while others take a longer, zigzaggy approach.

For Gary Moore, though, it’s a journey that crisscrosses generations and the globe – from Los Angeles, by way of San Francisco, on to Frankfurt, Tokyo and his home base of Denver.

And just as the skies have been friendly to him, it’s his sons who keep him well-grounded.

“They’ll have folks come up to them and go, ‘Oh, wow, your father’s a triple-7 captain?’” he says. “But to them, I’m just Dad.”

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